HIV Criminalization Comes To MARYLAND! ... Wait, I'm HIV+ and I Live in Maryland ...
A Video Blog
By Justin B. Terry-Smith
January 20, 2012
Maryland's oldest and longest serving Senator Norman Stone (Democrat from Baltimore County) proposed the bill (Senate Bill 60) to raise the transmission of HIV from a Misdemeanor to a Felony charge. The bill currently has no co-sponsor in the Senate.
Justin's HIV Journal: HIV Criminalization Comes To MARYLAND!!!......Wait I'm HIV+ and I'm from MD
Currently along with 34 other states and 2 territories, Maryland does have laws in place that criminalize the transmission of HIV through sharing needles & sex. Some states have even harsher guidelines, such as Iowa, in which HIV-positive Iowans have been imprisoned for having protected sex.
HIV Is Not a Crime, 2011 Film by Sean Strub, Edit by Leo Herrera/HomoChic
In Iowa an HIV-positive man was jailed for 25 years even though he was having protected sex with an undetectable viral load. In Texas an HIV-positive man was jailed for 35 years for spitting on a police officer. Yes that is a nasty offense but we know that one must consume massive amounts of saliva to have a chance of transmitting the virus. Knowing this, conviction measures in the future could even be taken for someone who is HIV positive to kiss someone else. In both of these cases there was NO TRANSMISSION OF HIV NOTED. Across the country there have been at least 125 individuals persecuted since 2008. All of them were HIV-positive gay, straight, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, men and women.
There are two bills that would classify transferring the HIV virus to another individual as a felony in Maryland, one bill has already been introduced in the Maryland Assembly. These bills would increase the fine from the previous amount of $2,500.00 to a heftier fine of $10,000.00 and also jail time for the crime would be from 3 years to a longer time of 25 years imprisonment.
If this bill goes through than it might come back and bite the originator in the @$$. I cannot believe this. This bill will have to be written very carefully. This is the time of HIV & EVERYONE has the responsibility to protect themselves. People who do not want to put them self at risk need to use protective measures to not be infected with HIV. We should all know that if you have sex without a condom you not only put yourself at risk for HIV but for Hepatitis, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). This bill also removes accountability on both parties. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
In the case of rape then there should be a punishment, because rape is rape and no means no. Also if someone knows they are HIV positive and they are not disclosing to their wife, husband or partner then something needs to be done. A friend of mine Mindy summed it up perfectly, "If this bill passed, the police could treat people with a chronic disease as dangerous threats to society. The bill does not address a continuing public health crisis. Instead, it perpetuates stigmatization of HIV+ people. In fact, it violates several international human rights conventions and declarations."
We as Marylanders should be focused on prevention and education and not criminalization. This is not right. I wish this Senator would understand that even putting this bill in front of the Maryland General Assembly is in itself ludicrous. Look at this bill, it's very vague and if put into law it will clearly label all of us as criminals before we have done anything and even if we were planning on causing bodily harm or not. This is just so wrong, I personally feel that if this bill is passed, arrests will go up, and what is important like education and prevention or even harm reduction will go out the window.
Also, the real enemy is HIV. How do you expect people to disclose their status if they will be tried and convicted for it? How can you expect anyone to be able to tell someone they're dating that they have HIV if they don't want the police called on them? How do you expect people to be comfortable about being HIV positive themselves if they are branded as criminals? How do you expect stigma and shame to be overcome when self esteem will be hindered if this bill is passed? This bill could jail an HIV-positive person for having protected sex with anyone. I can't believe that this bill is even being proposed this is not where our energy needs to be.
Comment by: Charles
Wed., Jan. 25, 2012 at 3:12 am EST
Angelina, the problem is that unlike a cold, it "takes two to tango" with HIV. Shifting the burden of prevention to people with HIV is not only unfair, it is irrational, as these are the people who have the least to gain from prevention. These laws however create an expectation of disclosure, and in doing so compel people to drop their guards. Since many people with HIV don't know their status, this would cause infections even IF everyone who tested poz did the right thing. You don't see it because you're not a gay man (and don't belong to a group where the virus is prevalent), but the implications of these laws are quite perverse: You have gay men putting themselves in situations they know are risky, like online hookup sites, and declaring "if you have HIV, don't even speak to me". You have leaders setting an example in which it is appropriate to hound people about their status, and thus the creation of numerous destructive rumors which in turn compel people to avoid getting tested. I personally know a few people who are almost certainly poz, but avoid the test like the problem it is, and these sorts of laws are the reason. I can't in any good conscience tell them to do anything else.
Furthermore, I find this sort of reaction absurd. The only time we ever seem to talk about condoms not being "100% effective" is when we're justifying these laws. Until then, its always "I chose to have unprotected sex" or making fun of people who swore they wore a condom, or "I should've known better", or "he deserved it, everyone knows how to avoid HIV". This is BS. Society can't have it both ways. We can't blame pozzies for our own infections AND tell us that we need to prevent OTHER people from getting infected. Its a double standard. Either the rubbers don't work, and we're entitled to as much sympathy as any other victim, or they do, at which point our obligation ends if we wrap it up.
Comment by: angelina
Sun., Jan. 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm EST
when using protection it is not 100% safe they should be laws in place that if some one has hiv before you have anytype of sexual contact must state that they have hiv so that then when they use protection the partner knows they could be at higher risk there selfs, hiv is something that we need less of not more its about protecting new life and not being self absorbed about self embarrassment, contain it not hand it out like candy .
if i have a cold i sneeze in a tissue i cough in a tissue i dont kiss my kids on there face tryin to avoid them getting a cold i dont let them drink from my water bottle why because i care and love them and want to protect them from a cold never mind anything else,
Comment by: Vaughn Ripley
Sun., Jan. 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm EST
This is a pretty scary bill/law, especially considering that I live in MD and am HIV+. I'm not sure how things like this pass ... What's next, felony for giving someone the flu? I've lived with HIV for 25+ years, and this is simply another stigma that has attacked HIV+ people since it's inception. Read my blog and how I cope at - http://hivlongevity.com and keep your chin up!
Comment by: Xannasan
Fri., Jan. 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm EST
Well said, Justin. This is so outrageous and indeed it violates several international laws on human rights. It is like witch hunting, back to the middle ages. And that says more about those proposing the law, than about the real risks of (protected) sex and HIV transmission.
Check google: 'don't get stuck with HIV' and also think about how it discriminates different groups..
Comment by: Brent
(Los Angeles, CA)
Fri., Jan. 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm EST
I couldn't agree more. It is astounding that in this day and age, with the information available and how much has been learned since this epidemic started, that bills such as this can be proposed. I can understand back in the "dark ages" when HIV first came to public attention that there was much fear surrounding the disease as not was known at that time. Laws were passed out of fear and ignorance and it saddens me to hear that years later that is still the case. Our senators and congressmen should be working to get these old laws off the books that criminalize HIV transmission not perpetuating the "death sentence" mentality from when the first cases hit the newspapers. And from a Democrat on top of it. But ignorance can come in any age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation or political affiliation. One can only hope that the good people of Maryland, and any other state such a law exists in, will have enough sense to see a homophobic witch hunt when it presents itself and do everything they can to see that such proposals are struck down.
With proper medication HIV is an extremely manageable condition and it is everyone’s responsibility whether positive or negative / straight or gay to practice safe sex for a variety of reasons.
Thank you Justin for all that you do for the HIV community and for everyone everywhere.
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Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)
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