Women Speak Out Against HIV Criminalization at Advocacy Conference
Two HIV-positive women who faced prosecution under HIV criminalization statutes focused on criminalization's effects on women at the HIV Is Not a Crime Conference. Tiffany Moore of Nashville, Tennessee, and Monique Moree of Summerville, South Carolina, opened their panel with a short snippet from the film, "Positive Women: Exposing Injustice." Filmed and produced in Canada, it features stories from women living with HIV in Canada and advocates for HIV-positive women's rights.
The film highlights many issues that affect women when it comes to HIV disclosure and criminalization, including mental health issues, poverty, housing stability and violence. One of the women in the video, a native Saskatchewanian, discusses her experiences of being spit on, being called a "diseased bitch," and facing threats of violence. Another woman in the video explains that the fear of rejection when it comes to HIV disclosure is often compounded by threats of violence, domestic abuse and homelessness.
Monique Moree introduced herself as an advocate and author, while Tiffany Moore identified as the proud HIV-positive mother of a 4-month-old HIV-negative daughter. Moore shared that, when she was 15 years old, she was forced into the sex trade. And then at 19, after she was raped by men whose intent was to transmit HIV, Moore was charged with aggravated prostitution and forced to register as a sex offender alongside the men who raped her. "I don't understand how being HIV positive puts me in the same category as a child molester," Moore said.
#HIVisNotaCrime highlight woman and HIV criminalization during opening session 2 strong sisters standing for change. Thanks ladies.
— Linda H. Scruggs (@iamlhscruggs) June 3, 2014
Moree was tried in a military court after having unprotected sex with a military officer. "I wasn't even diagnosed a year when I had unprotected sex with a soldier. I wasn't as educated as I should have been. If we educated each other, we can change the laws in our community," she said.
Moree emphasized that women with HIV can often be held in abusive relationships and have no means of getting out. "We need laws to protect women. My kids could've been taken away from me," she said.
"It keeps women in a violent cycle," said Moore. Each woman was then asked to give one word that summed up her approach to activism. "Voice," said Moree. "Truth," said Moore. The two women were given a standing ovation before leaving the stage.
Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.