Thursday, February 21, 2013

Arrest all men, women and children with the flu!


Arrest all men, women and children with the flu!
By: Aaron M. Laxton, HIV-Infected Queer, Activist & Blogger

Criminalization of those living with HIV has seemingly set  a new precedence for how the CDC (Center for Disease Control) chooses to address public health issues. While the tactics of arresting those with HIV/AIDS are more in keeping with Hitler's Third Reich than a democratic society; arrest, prosecution and imprisonment is an ever-present fear for the approximately 1.2 million living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. If you are living with HIV/AIDS and you are not concerned about criminalization then you are clueless.

Policy makers, politicians and law enforcement serve of the Gestapo enforcing fear through the use of imprisonment, forfeiture of civil rights and public-shaming should an HIV positive person even be accused of looking in the direction of a negative person. In many ways it is very reminiscent of the deep-south at a time when African American men would be strung up simply on the accusation of a white woman that he had done something inappropriate. In the United States you are not innocent until proven guilty... You are guilty until proven innocent. Proving your innocence is something that requires money, lots of money. Even if you ultimately are proven innocent (which doesn't happen that often), you will be financially ruined. Your reputation will forever be that of a person who "intentionally tried to infect someone with HIV" regardless of the circumstance.

Thirty -four states and two U.S. territories have criminal statutes that punish people for exposing or transmitting HIV to another individual. Punishments range from a fine to up to 30 years in prison, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy. In some states, exposure or transmission is a felony, and convicted individuals are sometimes forced to register as sex offenders. In my home state of Missouri simply exposing another person to HIV (through ANY sexual contact) or by through saliva  is viewed by the law as a Class B punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Disclosure of your HIV status and the use of a condom is no defense. I repeat, the use of a condom is no defense according to Missouri law.


To date there has been no data that supports the idea that criminalizing HIV prevents exposure and infection. The contrary has actually been noted that criminalization practices impede getting people tested for HIV and ultimately treated. The reality is that criminal statutes that are out-dated and draconian only perpetuate fear and ignorance regarding HIV/AIDS.

Those infected with the flu should be arrested!

In 2006-2007 up to 49,000 people died in the United States as a result of complications related to influenza. If criminalizing HIV is seen as a prevention strategy then why not apply this same practice to address  influenza outbreaks? Arrest people who do not wash their hands, who cough without covering their mouth and those who place others at risk of infecting others with inluenza. Arrest children, women, the elderly... Arrest everyone since anyone can be a potential carrier of the influenza virus which could lead to death.

Obviously you can see the flaw in the previous suggestion however  criminalization is viewed as acceptable when applied to those living with HIV/AIDS?

Society has no problem quarantining marganlized populations however that must be seen as a slipper-slope that has greater implications for other groups. Today, it is criminalizing those living with HIV/AIDS but tomorrow it could be people living with Hepatitis. After that it could be criminalizing anyone who is a carrier of influenza. Ultimately where does it end? As long as we allow fear to dictate policy regarding public health, we will never acheive

You can either accept that criminalization of HIV/AIDS is the way it is, or you can fight against it. Contact you representative in Congress and urge them to sign on as a co-sponsor of the " REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act" introduced by Barabara Lee, (D) California.

Also you can learn more about efforts to end the criminalization of those with HIV by visiting The SERO Project at www.seroproject.org

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