Arrests of HIV-Positive People Continue; CDC Must Act! Sign On!
December 18, 2009
Do you know that HIV isn't spread by spitting, and that condoms are an effective HIV prevention tool?
Of course you do.
But this information seems to be outside the knowledge of many in the legal system across this country, where the criminal prosecution of people living with HIV often continues to ignore the facts.
Take Action: Endorse the letter to CDC asking them to keep their own promises to address HIV criminalization.
It's bad enough that the criminalization of HIV wreaks havoc in the lives of those who are charged or jailed or labeled as bio-terrorists, like this case in Michigan. But these cases are also spreading misinformation about HIV -- scaring people away from testing, treatment and care, and feeding into HIV stigma.
So What Is CDC Doing About This?
Over a year ago, many of you joined together to call for CDC to combat the stigmatization and criminalization of HIV.
We received a heartening response last December. CDC pledged to:
Not bad for a start.
But then almost a year passed, with no visible action. We wrote to CDC and asked what was up.
Well, not as much as we'd hoped. They say they are moving ahead on the updated materials but have dropped the plans for both the survey and the communications campaign.
Take Action by January 10
Tell CDC they need to honor their own commitment to a survey and a strong communications campaign for health departments and law enforcement to combat HIV criminalization.
Please endorse by January 10, and forward this to anyone who may be interested! And let's not go another year without full-scale, pro-active efforts from CDC to combat HIV stigma!
Thanks from everyone at the HIV PJA and Project UNSHACKLE!
P.S. Got another minute to confront HIV criminalization? Call the Macomb County Prosecutor's office in Michigan to ask them why and how they expect to arrest individuals for bio-terrorism because they have an infectious disease: (586) 469-5350. Click here for more information. And thanks to the Michigan Positive Action Network (MI-POZ) for their work on this!
January 10, 2010
Dr. Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., F.F.P.H.
Dear Dr. Fenton:
We are writing as concerned organizations and individuals, including the members and supporters of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance and Project UNSHACKLE, to urge CDC to take action on the steps it had identified to address the criminalization of HIV.
Last October, you received a widely-endorsed letter from Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) expressing our concerns about criminal prosecution of people living with HIV.
As we noted at that time,
Criminalizing HIV transmission ... has no preventative effects, further stigmatizes people already living with HIV and discourages others from disclosing their status or getting tested.
In December 2008 -- one year ago -- you replied in writing that CDC would undertake the following actions:
While you report that the first three items will be addressed by mid-December, we are deeply concerned to see that the final two items -- which would substantively increase the reach and effectiveness of the revised materials -- have been taken off the table.
You write that CDC will not survey state health departments, having decided it would be "better to use time and resources to focus on other [unspecified] activities related to criminal justice issues."
Further, you then say that the development of a communications strategy cannot be done without the completion of the survey. We fail to see how your decision to eliminate the survey plans eliminates the capacity or negates the pressing need for the development of a communications strategy.
In the meantime, the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of people with HIV continues, spreading misinformation and stigma in its path.
Our initial encouragement at CDC's list of steps on this issue has been greatly tempered by over a year of delay and a significant diminishment of its scale and scope. What we now see is a process of updating materials without a systematic assessment of local need or even a plan for their pro-active use.
Thus, we request:
We would appreciate a response to this letter no later than January 31, 2010.
This article was provided by HIV Prevention Justice Alliance. Visit HIV Prevention Justice Alliance's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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