United States National Dialogue on the Criminalization of HIV Transmission, Exposure & Non-disclosure: The Role of States & the Federal Government
- Published on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 14:43
At present 32 states and two territories within the United States have HIV-specific criminal laws in place. Convictions under these laws can result in prison sentences, being listed on public sex offender registries, and in some cases negative implications regarding employment, housing and even the right to vote.
Bringing these issues to the forefront, the ‘United States National Dialogue on the Criminalization of HIV Transmission, Exposure & Non-disclosure: The Role of States & the Federal Government’ took place on 4 December 2012 in Washington DC.
The US National Dialogue was a direct follow up to the High Income Countries Dialogue of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, held in September 2011 in Oakland, California and the release of the report of the Global Commission on HIV and the law in July 2012. Jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and Center for HIV Law & Policy, in cooperation with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the dialogue was attended by representatives from across the political spectrum, a variety of civil society actors and representatives from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).
n total more than 60 participants engaged in open and frank discussions focusing on the Commission’s findings and recommendations related to the criminalization of HIV in the United States. A number of participants gave powerful testimonials on their personal experiences of the impact of punitive criminal laws resulted in injustice. Monique Moree, founding member of the Sero Project, told the group about how her life has changed since being discharged from the military after testing positive for HIV.
Robert Suttle, Assistant Director of the Sero Project, recounted his story of being prosecuted and convicted for not disclosing his HIV-positive status while in a relationship. Although there was no transmission of HIV, Suttle spent six months in a Louisiana prison and was forced to register as a sex offender. All participants highlighted the lack of medical knowledge regarding the ways that HIV is transmitted and how this lack of knowledge has resulted in the proliferation of overly broad and often unjust laws that criminalize HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure.
At the national dialogue, NASTAD presented on the need for implementation of a public health approach to ending HIV criminalization and spearheaded discussion. The Center for HIV Law & Policy highlighted the importance of civil society’s involvement in advocating for law reform and noted that there was a great value in sensitizing State legislators about the harmful health and human rights impacts of HIV criminalization. Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy and NASTAD Chair and Chief of the Iowa Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis Randy Mayer, presented on the importance of close partnership between state legislature and public health in modernizing HIV-specific criminal law, and in advancing the agenda in the US state of Iowa.
As a result of the National Dialogue, key opportunities were created for broader coalitions of civil society organizations with prosecutors and discussions were held on future activities to implement the Commission’s recommendations within the US.
Efforts to modernize HIV-specific criminal law were advanced, with Iowa State making progress and California as a targeted State for action. Congresswoman Barbara Lee concluded with words of encouragement to the group, by noting her desire to see the reform of laws based on scientific evidence and grounded in human rights “So I can go back to the UN and say we did it.”
For additional information, please find the following documents and online resources:
- Congresswoman Barbara Lee Commends President’s Advisory Council on AIDS (PACHA) Resolution on Ending Federal and State HIV-Specific Criminal Laws, Prosecutions, and Civil Commitments
- UN Commission on the Status of Women Accepts Statement on HIV Criminalization and Women
- Compendium of Tweets on discussions during the national dialogue, put together by the HIV Justice Network: http://alturl.com/9w9fs
- NASTAD Blog: The Public Health Approach to Ending HIV Criminalization written right after the dialogue
- Videos played during the dialogue on HIV Criminalization in the US:
- HIV is not a Crime in the US: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB-6blJjbjc
- Women, HIV & Criminal Law in the US: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xARxu1XQ2Tg
- CNN’s video on WAD with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on HIV Criminalization in the US, featuring Nick, Robert & Barbara Lee: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2012/12/04/sgmd-gupta-sex-hiv-crime.cnn