HIV Prevention Over Prosecution

Kudos to Delaware Senator Chris Coons. Last week, he introduced the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act in the U.S. Senate. It is a companion bill to the H.R. 1843, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).  The bill requires a federal interagency review of state statutes as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to help make laws consistent with contemporary science, rather than laws that inappropriately stigmatize people with HIV. This crucial legislation can help remove a legal barrier to HIV prevention, as well as combat stigma, which are causes I have advocated energetically as executive director of The Sero Project.

Senator Coons also published an excellent piece on Huffington Post, and last Saturday he was on NPR discussing the legislation.

Ending legalized discrimination against people with HIV is important. Not only as the right thing to do for people with HIV, but as a public health priority. We can prosecute HIV or we can prevent it; but we can't do both.  For those of us who have been advocating for criminalization reform in recent years—particularly survivors of HIV criminalization prosecutions, like Robert Suttle, Nick Rhoades, Monique Moree, Eddie Casto, Mark Hunter, David Plunkett, Tiffany Moore and others—the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate is a great step.  

Thank you, Senator Coons, for joining Representatives Barbara Lee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and 30-plus co-sponsors of their legislation in showing leadership on this issue. The next step is for the community to step up and contact their Senators to urge them to join Senator Coons and co-sponsor his bill.