This morning, we are here at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 41st Annual Legislative Conference and attending a panel titled, “HIV Criminalization: Why It Should Matter to You.” This discussion will focus on the use of HIV-specific criminalization statutes and prosecutions and the public health challenges with these laws and policies create.
We’re already two speakers into the panel and Luvvie and I are completely blown away by what we didn’t know. Often when we hear the term “HIV criminalization,” we think of reckless individuals living with HIV/AIDS who maliciously expose others to the disease via sex. The media tells us that these individuals are “monsters” and we believe them. But, for every person who does something like this, there are many other HIV-positive individuals who are jailed for spitting on someone, biting them in a fight, or having unprotected sex before learning about their own diagnosis.
The injustice is overwhelming! But, these discussions are raising a great question. Where is the balance between protecting the health of the public and protecting the civil rights of a stigmatized population? Hopefully, it’s a discussion that we get to today.