Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-06-26
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Advocates: Transmission laws hinder HIV/AIDS prevention efforts
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Matt Simonette

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Laws that penalize intimate partner contact wherein one person has failed to inform the other that they are HIV-positive are viewed by many advocates and service providers as retrograde, unnecessary and even harmful, according to members of a panel that spoke Feb. 15 at Center on Halsted.

"Science has not been translated into American courtrooms," said participant Trevor Hoppe, assistant professor of sociology at University of Albany-State University of New York and author of the book Punishing Disease, which provides accounts of prosecutions made under such laws.

Hoppe noted that recent advances in HIV-prevention technology, specifically medications that can suppress a person's HIV virus to undetectable levels, oftentimes don't factor into law enforcement officials' decisions over whether to prosecute such cases, even though there is no medically-sound scenario in which the infection can be passed along.

"Why hold people responsible for not disclosing a non-transmittable disease?" Hoppe asked.

Scott Schoettes—HIV project director at Lambda Legal, who works extensively on the issue—listed three harmful effects of such laws. First, they provide a significant detriment to public health: One of the most effective tools in HIV-prevention is when large segments of a population know their HIV status. Since a person cannot be prosecuted if they knowingly transmit the disease, they therefore have an incentive to not be tested for infection.

"It has the perverse effect of dampening down disclosure," he said.

Another effect is a perversion of the legal process, which in these cases often downplays any aspect of malicious intent. Illinois raised the bar on such proof some years back, and the law here now requires law enforcement demonstrate such intent. But Schoettes noted that prosecutors have been creative in how they apply that concept; some have argued that they only need argue an "intent to have sex" and not an intention to transmit HIV.

The third effect is perpetuating stigmatization of HIV-positive individuals. Schottes said that immigrants and women and persons of color can particularly feel the impact of such laws more than others. The laws are sometimes also deployed as instruments of emotional violence by intimate partners of HIV-positive persons, who can bully the other by threatening to report that they've "exposed" them to HIV.

Vera Lamarr, an advocate who works on behalf of sex workers' rights, added that sex workers and persons of color are hit hard by the laws as well. She said that sex work is a misdemeanor that is "upgradable" to a felony if a defendant has HIV in 12 states. According to Lamarr, criminalizing sex work proves detrimental to community-wide HIV-prevention efforts; in the long run, sex-workers will have difficulty accessing, or won't try to access, health services.

"You're being criminalized for being sick, and, in most cases, being poor," she said.

Schoettes said bluntly that gay men need to "grapple" with such laws as well, pointing to a California survey indicating that the gay community supports HIV-criminalization laws even more widely than the general population does.

Despite some increased awareness about the egregiousness of such regulations, the laws continue to evolve in some parts of the country. While states such as California and Colorado, for example, have loosened their regulations, other states in the South and Midwest have doubled down on theirs, introducing new regulations that criminalize transmission of of other infections, such as Hepatitis C, as well.

"Each state has its own varying laws," said HIV/AIDS advocate Maurice Chapman, who tied HIV-criminalization laws into issues associated with the prison industry during the presentation.

Many states' laws came about because legislation such as the Ryan White Act required prosecution of intentional transmission, according to Schoettes. Though the act did not require them to do so, some states codified that rule in their own legislation. Some laws even came about only in the '90s, presumably after much anti-HIV/AIDS paranoia from the '80s had subsided and just shortly after anti-retroviral therapies became widely available. Lawmakers often felt that the laws would provide constituents further protections and incentives toward guarding against infection.

The panelists noted that legislators are often hesitant to roll back criminal laws for fear of looking soft on crime. Schoettes said that efforts to repeal transmission laws can prove problematic; with no laws providing a legal framework on the books, prosecutors could tie future instances of alleged HIV exposure to crimes such as attempted murder or bioterrorism. Rather, advocates would be well served focusing on introducing burdens of proof into existing laws, he explained; prosecutors might be forced to determine a specific intent to harm or whether or not the assailant was virally-suppressed, for example.

"We shouldn't be trying to address a public health problem with a criminal law solution," Schoettes added.

The panel was introduced by Justin Hayford, a senior legal advocate for AIDS Legal Council, which is part of Legal Council for Health Justice (LCHJ), and moderated by Jeff Berry of Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) and Positively Aware magazine. LCHJ and TPAN organized and sponsored the forum.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Addict learns to overcome obstacles, thanks to foundation 2019-06-26 - When Spencer was 11, he came out to his family as gay. However, his family took the news as a shock and thought ...

Gay News

The American Psychoanalytic Association apologizes to LGBTQs 2019-06-26 - The American Psychoanalytic Association ( APsaA ) has issued a statement apologizing for its past views that pathologized homosexuality and transgender identities. ...

Gay News

BOOKS Assisted-reproduction book's author hopes to help LGBTQ parents 2019-06-26 - Kim Bergman has helped bring more than 1,700 babies into the world throughout her 30 years working in the assisted-reproduction field. She and ...

Gay News

People with disabilities wanted to talk about justice system 2019-06-23 - Access Living, a local disability rights and advocacy organization, is seeking people with disabilities who have had contact with the Cook County criminal ...

Gay News

Walgreens, Greater Than AIDS offering free tests June 27 2019-06-23 - Walgreens and Greater Than AIDS are partnering community organizations across Chicago to provide free, confidential HIV testing and counseling in 22 Chicago Walgreens ...

Gay News

Congressman Chuy Garcia on Reports of ICE Raids Starting This Weekend 2019-06-21 - Chicago, IL- Congressman JesÃs "Chuy" GarcÃa ( IL-04 ) issued the following statement in response to news reports that the U.S. Immigration and ...

Gay News

Aldermen Mobilize to Protect Chicagoans from Promised ICE Raids 2019-06-21 - President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to move forward with targeted immigration raids ...

Gay News

Title X gag rule begins, limiting health care access for many, Planned Parenthood responds 2019-06-20 - WASHINGTON —— The Trump-Pence administration's Title X gag rule takes effect today in every state but Maryland, after a ruling by a panel ...

Gay News

AMA adopts new pro-LGBTQ policies at annual meeting 2019-06-19 - The American Medical Association ( AMA ), voted to adopt new policies on emerging health care topics during the first day of voting ...

Gay News

Reproductive Health Act is law, making Illinois a 'beacon' 2019-06-19 - CHICAGO—Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made Illinois the most liberal state in the United States for access to reproductive health care with the strokes ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.