The Black AIDS Institute condemns the recent murder of Cicely Bolden, 28, a young HIV-positive mother of two living in Dallas by Larry Dunn, Jr., 36. We send our deepest sympathies and condolences to her family and loved ones.
While we are reluctant to draw any conclusions about this case, which currently is being investigated, we do believe strongly, first and foremost, that we need to respond quickly and forcibly to violence against women and that our society needs to strengthen both public opinion and public policy against domestic and intimate-partner violence. It's unacceptable to harm someone mentally, physically or emotionally -- much less kill them -- under any conditions at all.
Mr. Dunn claims to have murdered Ms. Bolden in a fit of rage after she disclosed her HIV status following a sexual encounter. "This reminds me of the old 'homosexual panic' defense, in which gay men could be brutalized or even murdered and it was a legitimate defense to say that the murderer should not be held culpable because the gay man made a sexual advance toward him that caused him to panic," said Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "No matter what else this case might be. It is first and foremost a domestic violence homicide. This man killed a mother of two and left her body for her children to find. We should not lose sight of that."
If early reporting of this case proves to be accurate, it also speaks to the need to increase efforts to confront HIV stigma, provide basic HIV/AIDS education, and create an environment where people living with HIV can live openly and honestly without fear of violence or other negative consequences.
The Black AIDS Institute condemns media organizations that have led with the incendiary alleged quote from the defendant: "She killed me, so I killed her". Leading with this statement gives credence to Mr. Dunn's actions. It also reveals the amount of work that needs to happen to educate the media as well as the American public about the state of AIDS in America today. In 2012 everyone should know that HIV is not an automatic death sentence.
In addition, there is so much we don't know. For example, we don't know if Ms. Bolden and Mr. Dunn used condoms. It's entirely possible that Bolden disclosed her HIV status in response to Mr. Dunn asking her why she insisted on using a condom. We don't know if Mr. Dunn is HIV positive or not. As of the time this news story was written, Mr. Dunn hadn't been HIV tested yet. Finally, by leading with Mr. Dunn's statement, the media absolves Mr. Dunn of any responsibility for his own protection.
What we know is Cicely Bolden is dead. Her children have lost their mother. Larry Dunn killed her because she was an HIV positive Black woman.
The Black AIDS Institute urges communities, advocates and policymakers to respect the life of Ms. Bolden by working aggressively to create an environment where we eliminate HIV-related stigma -- where people with HIV can live their lives openly, honestly, freely and with integrity in a culture and a society where that is the norm and not the exception.