HIV Criminalization Discourages HIV Testing, Creates Disabling and Uncertain Legal Environment for People With HIV in U.S.
July 25, 2012
Washington, D.C. -- Preliminary data from the Sero Project's ground-breaking survey of more than two thousand people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the U.S., released July 25, 2012, at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., reveals HIV criminalization is a significant deterrent to testing, accessing care and treatment for HIV:
"We expected the survey to show criminalization is a deterrent to HIV testing, but these findings indicate it is an even bigger obstacle than previously believed," said Laurel Sprague, the project's principal investigator who is also Sero's Research Director. "The community's response has been tremendous; it is obvious there is tremendous concern about HIV criminalization. I look forward to further analysis of the survey responses, including of those who are HIV negative or do not know their HIV status, which will be released in a report later this year."
Sean Strub, Sero's executive director and the founder of POZ Magazine, said "This is a wake-up call for public health officials and policymakers who have failed to recognize the extent to which HIV criminalization hampers efforts to combat AIDS. We've known for years that HIV criminal statutes do not achieve their intended purpose, to reduce HIV transmission. Now it is clear that these statutes are driving the epidemic, because of how they fuel stigma and discourage HIV testing and accessing the treatment that reduces transmission."
Strub and Sprague are both long-term HIV survivors and advocates who have championed self-empowerment for people with HIV to combat stigma and improve health outcomes for themselves and their communities.
The 2,076 people living with HIV in the United States who responded to the Sero survey also painted a disturbing picture of a disabling legal environment for people with HIV:
The top reasons cited for disclosure were that it is "the right thing to do", "to have honest relationships" and "not cause harm to another" or "to protect their partner", not that it was required by law or because of fear of criminal prosecution. More than 8 in 10 PLHIV in the study said that they believe that sexual partners share equally in the responsibility for HIV prevention.
The detailed survey, which required 20 to 25 minutes to complete, was conducted online in June and July of 2012, and is the first in-depth examination of the effect of HIV criminalization on people with HIV and one of the largest surveys of people in the U.S. with HIV ever conducted. Further results and analysis will be released later in the year.
This article was provided by The Sero Project.
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