We continued our Hot Topics series with our third topic: HIV Criminalization. We at SMART Youth have discussed this topic before on a policy-level and talked about ways to advocate for those affected by these unjust and discriminatory laws. These are laws and policies that prosecute people who are HIV-positive for engaging in consensual sex or other activities without disclosing their HIV status, regardless of actual risk of transmission. For our meeting last Friday, we focused on how these laws affect us on a personal-level.
We watched a video [featuring one of our SMART Youth leaders!] that showcased the many ways these laws negatively affect people who are HIV-positive. Other than not knowing their HIV status, there are many reasons why people do not disclose to their partner. HIV is still a heavily stigmatized condition that means potentially negative consequences for those who choose to reveal their status, including loss of social support from friends and family, job loss, or having their personal information spread to other people.
The purpose of these laws is to force those with HIV to disclose their status to others, but when there are factors discouraging people from doing so, it puts them in a dilemma. One would have to choose between disclosing and getting backlash, or not disclosing and being arrested; both results are harmful. Many times, people avoid getting tested because in the eyes of the law, not knowing about your HIV status is better than knowing. This is the opposite of what we want, which is to eliminate stigma and encourage people to know their status in order to take charge of their health.
In order for people to feel comfortable and safe to disclose their status, we all have a responsibility to create an environment for that. One way to do that is to fight against these unfair laws and policies through educating ourselves and our peers.
For more information on HIV Criminalization laws or disclosure, please see links to our previous blog posts below:
- HIV Criminalization: http://smartyouthnyc.blogspot.com/2014/06/smart-youth-discuss-hiv-criminalization.html
- Disclosure: http://smartyouthnyc.blogspot.com/2014/06/smart-youth-and-mnn-youth-channel.html