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Criminalization of HIV - A brief story in a small town

Criminalization of HIV - A brief story in a small town


Seropositive Editor of the Web Site Note: While it may seem that we are pointing to the backyard of others, criminalization of HIV(misleading expression, since what is criminalized is the HIV carrier in its right to privacy) is a topic right here in Brazil, where extreme right-wing currents or extreme religious discrimination, who crave it and struggle in the obscurity of the congress, trying to corrupt someone to begin a kind of moral genocide. when it comes to mapping the US HIV / AIDS epidemic, Iowa probably is not the first state that comes to mind. At 2010, with only 1.722 diagnosed cases, Iowa had one of the lowest per-capita prevalence rates. Only 68 per 100.000 people in the country. However, in recent years, the state whose motto promises to "prize" and "maintain" the freedoms and rights of its citizens, has become an unlikely epicenter for HIV activism to a fundamental issue: the criminalization of people living with HIV.

HIV criminalization is nothing new, of course. Since 1980, over 30 states passed laws to punish people who fail to disclose their HIV status before having sex, intravenous needle sharing, or donate blood or organs. In some cases, people have even been processed by spitting in others, even though experts say that saliva can not transmit HIV.

Last year, an investigation by Pro-Publica, a website of investigative journalism nonprofit, found that prosecutors in states 19 won convictions or guilty pleas in at least 541 cases of HIV exposure since 2003. Advocates have criticized these laws saying they unfairly highlight HIV for prosecution and more severe and undermine public health goals punishments for further stigmatize the virus.

While other states, such as Georgia, Ohio and Missouri are aggressive in these cases, the rise in Iowa as a battleground on the criminalization of HIV is due, in large part, by the case of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive man from Iowa who was arrested in 2008, after a one-night stand. Him guilty of the charge known as "Criminal HIV Transmission" is declared, even though he was not detectable, used condoms and did not transmit the virus. However, a judge ordered the maximum sentence was the 25 years in state prison. Therefore, the more severe sentence called the attention to the case Rhoades.

Strub, himself a native of Iowa, is currently a full-time executive director of the Sero Project, a nonprofit organization that fights against stigma and discrimination focusing on the criminalization of HIV. He quickly introduced Rhoades lawyers that would eventually launch a series of funds and draw attention across the country. But the cases in Iowa were still accumulating, first with Rhoades, and then with Donald Bogardus, another HIV-positive man from Iowa, who was arrested on the same charge, this time in 2009. Was when Tami Haught, a mutual friend and local activist, was involved.

Haught, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1993, has been defending people with HIV since she helped launch the lawyers of the Community HIV and hepatitis Iowa (current) in 2005, after the arrests of Bogardus Rhoades. Haught has become a key figure in the local movement to end the criminalization.

In 2013, along with Senator Matt McCoy; its legislative council, Christian Zenti; and Cathy Engel, Democrat research analyst with the Senate judiciary committee, CHAIN ​​advocated a bill to "modernize" Criminal Transmission of rule of law of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The new law, known as Senate File 2297 proposed a sentence structure in which layers payroll criminals intend to expose their partners to HIV and their partners contracting the virus; the law also includes a "safe harbor" - a provision for people who use condoms and are following the treatment plan from a physician, and eliminated the requirement, part of the old law that the guilty must register as sex offenders for life. The latter provision was retroactive, meaning those convicted under the old law, as Rhoades and Bogardus, were no longer considered sex offenders.

"When I started, I thought I was doing it because I knew Nick, and Donald, and I wanted to help them," says Haught. But, as it turns out, the cause was more personal than even she realized.

In 1994 shortly after Haught married, her husband was hospitalized after a mental breakdown. "After he was released from the hospital, he was afraid that my family would convince me to give complaint against him since he contracted HIV from him," she says. "So it was the fear of this law that caused him to have a mental breakdown."

It was only when visiting a friend last year at the same hospital, two decades later, there was a connection. "I was walking down the hall and it was then that he truly realized how personal it was for me," says Haught.

Dusting For Fingerprints On White

While SF 2297 had the support of local attorneys and Department of Public Health Iowa. Several county prosecutors opposed the bill, arguing that it would be almost impossible to prove a defendant intends to transmit the virus. National advocacy groups also had concerns. Lambda Legal, who was representing Rhoades as his appeal worked on the way to the state Supreme Court, criticized the provision of the new law that essentially requires people with HIV using a condom, even if they are in treatment, and undetectable. The Center for HIV Law and Policy, which also campaigning against the criminalization of HIV, opposed the bill for the creation of new criminal offenses for intentionally exposing people with other diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and meningococcal disease .

But such criticism does not derail the bill. In May this year, after months of meetings with legislators and a few hours before the session of the State Congress, proponents of the bill had a win in the final minute, when lawmakers unanimously approved SF 2297. A month later, during a signing ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol, Governor Terry Branstad signed the bill and posed for photos with Rhoades and Bogardus.

Graphics for a media campaign soon about the criminalization of HIV

At the same time, the Sero Project had been busy addressing plans to organize HIV, a first national meeting devoted to the issue of HIV criminalization. The four-day meeting, which took place at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, a few days after Branstad has signed into law SF 2297 which attracted more than 170 people 27 states to present on criminalization, network, and develop plans Action for advocacy efforts in their states of origin. In a surprise event, McCoy, the senator who helped sponsor the new Iowa law, showed up at the reception with a pair of pliers to remove anklets Rhoades and Bogardus, who were forced to wear under state law age.

"I think everyone returned to their energized, ready to go to states, to build the network in their community," says Haught. "They came out with a plan. They left knowing that the change had happened and that each person can make a difference, you just have to start doing that. "

Just two weeks later, the state Supreme Court delivered more good news. In a decision of the 6 1, the highest court of the state voted to overturn the conviction of Rhoades because prosecutors had not proved "a factual basis" for the plea, even if the transmission was likely to occur and certain undetectable viral load Rhoades.

Scott Schoettes, who represented Rhoades during the appeals and serves as national director of Lambda Legal's HIV Project, says that the decision to Iowa could help change the legal landscape in other states, since it is the first to say that the transmission should be "reasonable", not only theoretically possible.

But Rhoades is not out of danger yet. His case has been deferred to a lower court, where prosecutors may try to take Rhoades to trial, negotiate a new plea or reject the allegations. Tom Ferguson, Black Hawk County attorney, said that his office plans to do. For other people of Iowa sentenced under the old law the court records show that there were more than 20 convictions in the state since it was enacted in 1998, advocates are working to restore their rights under the new law.

"Fortunately, every Iowan (person of Iowa) who was accused by 709C has been removed from the registry of sex offenders," says Haught. "There are two other people who are still in prison based solely on the former status, the 709C, and we are trying to help them get out of jail, or at least to have a board of parole."

As Bogardus, he will still have a criminal conviction on your record, the removal of sex offender registry status allowed him to resume his career 23 years as certified nursing assistant.

Since the conference, federal authorities have also weighed. In July, the US Department of Justice issued new guidelines urging states "to eliminate the specific criminal sanctions for HIV," except in cases of sexual assault or clear intent to transmit the virus. In addition, during 20 th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, the US ambassador to Australia John Berry reported the existence of laws of exposure to HIV.

"While the United States still have laws criminalizing HIV status, we are working to do better and to rectify our mistakes," says Berry. "We believe that the actions of more productive public policy that we can take is to remove outdated laws criminalizing the books."

Graphics for a media campaign soon about the criminalization of HIV

The Sero Project praised the statements of Berry. "Unequivocal statement of the ambassador that the criminalization of HIV is an injustice and fundamental impediment to ending the epidemic is of enormous importance," says the group. "The reform of the criminalization of HIV is becoming a litmus test for human rights worldwide, and we look forward to further progress in the months and years ahead."

Lawyers, as Strub and Haught are trying to make progress a reality. They have already begun to lay the groundwork for a follow-up conference next year, and Haught became coordinator with advocates from other states, offering guidance and using the history of Iowa as a framework for anti-criminality campaigns in other jurisdictions.

"There is still much work to be done and more people need to be trained and achieved," says Haught. "The only way we will end the epidemic is to empower people living with HIV to fight for our rights, to advocate, educate, and not be ashamed."

Search: HIV is not a Crime, Sero Project, Sean Strub, Grinnell College, Iowa, Nick Rhoades, Donald Bogardus, AIDS 2014

Criminalization of HIV - A brief story in a small town.

Tradução: Karin Gobitta-Foldes

About Claudio Souza do Soropositivo.Org (506 articles)
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