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HIV/AIDS News Digest: March 24, 2011

By Kellee Terrell

March 24, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

Are Trade Schools in The U.S. Denying HIV Positive Applicants? (From The Associated Press)

A few months ago, The U.S. Justice Department announced that it had reached a settlement between Modern Hairstyling Institute in Puerto Rico and an unnamed complainant who claimed that the school refused to admit her because of her HIV status. Apparently, the Justice Department doesn't believe this is just happening in Puerto Rico-they suspect that it's happening in the U.S. too.

The AP reported:

People who have HIV and AIDS are protected from discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the department says some licensing agencies and schools for barbering, cosmetology, massage therapy, home health care work and other occupations may be denying admission because of HIV status…

The department said Monday that it has sent letters to attorneys general in all 50 states asking them to identify other programs that violate the act and bring them into compliance.

This particular article doesn't divulge which agencies the Justice Department believes are discriminating against people living with HIV/AIDS, but perhaps as this story develops, we will have more specifics. The Body will be keeping an eye on this issue and will report on any updates.


The Atlantic on Why We Need to Stop Treating People Living with HIV like Criminals (From The Atlantic)

Following in The Root's footsteps, journalist Jessica Wapner also tackled the injustices of HIV criminalization in her newest article for The Atlantic, "Why We Need to Stop Treating HIV Victims Like Criminals." In her piece, she makes the important point that these HIV disclosure laws really don't do what they claim they do-bring transmission rates down.

She wrote:

The evidence supports these assertions that the laws don't work. "For 99 percent of prosecutions, there was no transmission that actually occurred," says [Megan McLemore, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch]. "So [the laws] are not accomplishing any public health purpose or criminal justice." A U.K. study found that the presence of similar laws in Britain led to the false assumption that a sexual partner would disclose HIV status because it's legally required. Other studies have found that the laws either haven't altered people's behavior or have actually made disclosing HIV status less likely.

Why the op-ed itself is commendable, the use of the word "victim" in the title is quite bothersome. It is unknown as to whether or not the use of the word was a decision made by The Atlantic's editors or Wapner herself. (She never referred to people living with HIV as "victims" throughout her piece. Either way, the editors at The Atlantic should have known better.


New Bill Gives Inmates the Option to Be Tested After Their Release (From The Virginia Gazette)

Thanks to new bills that were passed in Virginia, prisoners will be offered HIV testing within 60 days of being released from a correctional facility. Currently, the Department of Corrections only tests an inmate for HIV at his or her request.

The Virginia Gazette reported:

Two identical bills passed by this year's General Assembly require the Virginia Department of Corrections to offer such HIV testing. Prisoners will have the right not to be tested.

"This will allow inmates to know their HIV status in order to reduce transmissions to others and to better link them with HIV care services upon release. Previously incarcerated persons with HIV are less likely to return to the criminal justice system if they are linked with health care services," said Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg.

A lot of times, the people who come in and out of the prison system are the ones who have very little access to health care and for many; prison is the only opportunity to be tested for HIV. The 33,000 dollars it will cost the state is well worth it, if it means linking people to care and getting the community viral load down.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.


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