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ACT UP NY AND QUEEROCRACY TO PROTEST HIV CRIMINALIZATION AT NYC GAY PRIDE


AIDS ACTIVISTS MARCH PRISON FLOAT DOWN 5th AVE TO HIGHLIGHT NATIONAL TREND TO CRIMINALIZE PEOPLE WITH HIV/AIDS

New York, NY, June 22  –  This Sunday, while tens of thousands of New Yorkers celebrate LGBT equality at Pride, local grassroots activist groups ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), and QUEEROCRACY aim to raise awareness about the growing phenomenon of HIV criminalization, making it a crime for people with HIV not to disclose their HIV status before having sex or for heightened penalties or charges for persons prosecuted for other crimes—like assault, sex work or immigration violations—simply because they also have HIV.

HIV Criminalization Drives HIV Underground

 

 

Thirty-four states and two U.S. territories have laws making it a crime for persons living with HIV to have intimate contact with another person without prior disclosure of his or her HIV positive status. Some people have been sentenced to decades in prison and are required to register as sex offenders for sexual behaviors between consenting adults, even when a condom is used, the person with HIV has an undetectable viral load and there is no transmission. Thousands of people with have been criminalized.

Thirty-four states and two U.S. territories have laws making it a crime for persons living with HIV to have intimate contact with another person without prior disclosure of his or her HIV positive status. Some people have been sentenced to decades in prison and are required to register as sex offenders for sexual behaviors between consenting adults, even when a condom is used, the person with HIV has an undetectable viral load and there is no transmission. Thousands of people with have been criminalized.

 

Spitting and biting, which pose no risk of HIV transmission, have also resulted in criminal convictions and severe sentences.  In New York, in 2009, a man was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for spitting in a police officer’s face.  Saliva was considered the deadly weapon even though there is no significant risk of transmission through saliva.  “People with HIV are being prosecuted based on ignorance and bigotry. These laws create a ‘viral underclass’ in the law and do not take contemporary science into consideration.,” says Megan Mullholand of QUEEROCRACY.

 

For their Pride march, members of ACT UP NY and QUEEROCRACY will don prison jumpsuits and black-and-white convict uniforms to call attention to the threat these unjust laws pose to the safety and wellbeing of people living with HIV/AIDS and also to the greater fight against AIDS. “HIV criminalization laws were supposedly created to prevent the transmission of HIV, but they’re actually doing the opposite. They drive people away from HIV testing, since knowing your status can subject you to criminal prosecution,” says ACT UP founding member Eric Sawyer.

 

“HIV criminalization laws discourage disclosure and drive stigma, which has been one of the biggest obstacles to addressing the AIDS epidemic since the earliest days” said Sean Strub, director of the SERO Project, which combats HIV criminalization (www.SeroProject.com)

 

Some group members plan to wear police uniforms labelled HIV police and hand out summons to the crowd for “crimes” such as “Spitting while HIV+” and “Failure to Disclose HIV Status.” That day, the activists also hope to hand out 7000 information leaflets to raise awareness of the HIV criminalization issue within the LGBT community and its allies.

The groups encourage people to contact their members of Congress and ask that they co-sponsor H.R.3053, the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act introduced by U.S. Representative Barbara Lee that will encourage states to modernize statutes targeting people living with HIV. The short documentary HIV Is Not a Crime, created by the SERO Project, features interviews with several people prosecuted for “HIV crimes.”

 

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ACT UP NY media contact: Eric Sawyer 917.951.5758

QUEEROCRACY media contact: Megan Mulholland 917.825.6342