Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#HIV: Why We Must Educate Ourselves #HIVisNotACrime

Recently Charlie Sheen came out as HIV positive and the reaction to his interview and the news leading up to it exposed just how stigmatized HIV is.

"I would like to admit that I am in fact HIV positive...I have to put a stop to this onslaught, this barrage of attacks and of sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me, that threaten the health of so many others that couldn't be further from the truth." - Charlie Sheen

HIV education among Americans is at at a dangerous low, considering that it has been around over 30 years and that the science behind it seems to be a mythical unicorn to most. I am not surprised by any of this, just this past April I came out and followed up with it more extensively in my coming out series. "I am not coming out of this closet just for me, I am coming out of this closet for everyone who has be ostracized and made to feel nasty. Those of us who have HIV are healthier than most out in the general population, yet we Black gay men die at a higher rate from HIV than those who are in the group where HIV infection is actually the highest. I live UNAPOLOGETIC ABOUT WHO I AM, I accept me for who I am. It is time that you accept you for who you are! We are not nasty people, we are not contagious, we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers! I am HIV positive and I live a healthy life, I am a person , a whole person and I exist." - 4/3/15

On July 3, 1981 a report on the discovery of the initial outbreak that lead to the AIDS epidemic. The report written by Lawrence K. Altman, was published by the New York Times and at the time it was thought to just be a rare cancer outbreak, over 30 years later we know that isn't the case. In all that time there was not a true form of HIV 101. A 101 that addresses the issue of infection in the heterosexual community in general, especially in the Black & Latino communities on a micro level

This lack of HIV 101 exposes a weakness to challenging stigmas surrounding HIV infection and diagnosis. "Lets be honest about who we are, a lot of us like to fuck raw and then bash those who are open about it. We do not live in a sex positive society and act like sexual puritans. The TRUTH is that we all know someone with an HIV diagnosis and will ignorantly act as if we don't. Let me make a correction in course, HIV 101":

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).
- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.


- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

Because of this stigma and lack of education people are being criminalized because of their HIV status due o the unwillingness of the judicial system, state and federal governments to come forward about the fact that one cannot trace his or her source of HIV infection when it comes to random sex partners. 

When I say criminalization of HIV, take it literally! This year the Counter Narrative Project along with myself and a host of others came out in support of Michael Johnson who stood trial for charges of "...one count of recklessly infecting a partner with HIV, one count of attempting to recklessly infect a partner with HIV, and three counts of recklessly exposing partners to HIV." and that "There are many people in this country who still believe, out of ignorance or cruelty, that people with HIV are pariahs who we all need to be protected from. But Michael Johnson is a part of our community and he is not disposable. Far too many young Black gay men receive an HIV diagnosis in this country, and nearly one in three can expect to in their lifetimes. And Missouri’s solution, to a problem they helped create, is prison." When people accuse others of being reckless with their HIV status, one must consider their own recklessness in not asking or protecting themselves before that sex acts they commit.

Government on all levels, specifically the state governments (32 have laws) have implemented or attempted to pass bill criminalizing HIV and with lack of education on the matter. Take for example that just this past spring Senate Bill 779 was introduced by Sen Joan Huffman. The bill would have removed the confidential nature of HIV test results and allow them to be used as evidence in a criminal proceedings.

By: HuffmanS.B. No. 779
(Bonnen of Brazoria)
relating to access to certain medical test results in a criminal
proceeding; amending provisions subject to a criminal penalty.
       SECTION 1.  Section 81.103, Health and Safety Code, is
amended by adding Subsections (c-1), (c-2), and (k-1) to read as
       (c-1)  Subject to Subsection (k-1), a test result is subject
to and may be released or disclosed under a subpoena issued under
Chapter 20 or 24, Code of Criminal Procedure, in a criminal
       (c-2)  Notwithstanding any other law, a person who releases
or discloses a test result in response to a subpoena issued under
Chapter 20 or 24, Code of Criminal Procedure, in a criminal
proceeding is not subject to any criminal or civil liability or
professional disciplinary action for releasing or disclosing the
test result, except in a case of gross negligence or wilful
       (k-1)  Before entering into evidence or otherwise releasing
or disclosing a test result obtained by subpoena under Subsection
(c-1) in a criminal proceeding, the court in which the test result
is to be presented as evidence or otherwise released or disclosed
shall issue a protective order or take other action to limit the
release or disclosure of the test result. For a test result
obtained under a grand jury subpoena, the court responsible for the
grand jury shall issue the order or take other action to limit the
release or disclosure of the test result before the test result is
presented to the grand jury.
       SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this
Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
Act takes effect September 1, 2015.
WE MUST take the time to educate EVERYONE about HIV and how it works, that it does not discriminate in seeking a healthy host. We also must respect the privacy of those who are infected and managing life with HIV regardless of celebrity status or lack thereof. Remember that regardless of what you deem to be a "lifestyle choice", no one is deserving of HIV and they damn sure didn't ask for it! Finally, take note that HIV is not a crime and the notion of anyone feeling otherwise including the 32 states that have bigoted laws on their books that question private sexual judgment calls and deems them a criminal act should seek education and counseling immediately.

Advocacy Without Borders gave great talking points that you can use:

1. Using HIV test results in any criminal prosecution makes it appear that HIV is the crime rather than the actual crime being investigated. We need public health solutions to fight HIV and not criminal prosecutions.

2. Criminalizing people because they are HIV positive continues to perpetuate fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Texas does not have an HIV specific criminal statute. Prosecutors should charge the actual crime and not the health status!

3. Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment. Tests results can’t be used against you if you don’t get tested.

4. There is no evidence that HIV related prosecutions increase disclosure, reduce the spread of HIV or deter the rare acts of intentional transmission.

5. Laws should reinforce science-based public health messages. SB 779 could also be applied against persons charged with crimes involving spitting and biting. There is simply no need to prosecute someone for attempting to transmit HIV through spitting or biting, because that is not how HIV is transmitted.

6. It violates the privacy rights of people living with HIV by permitting confidential medical information to be used in a criminal proceeding. Issuing a protective order at a later stage does not prevent the violation of privacy.

7. HIV is a chronically manageable disease and should not be treated as a deadly weapon. Defining HIV as a deadly weapon further stigmatizes the disease and those living with it.

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