It’s Time to End Policies That Treat People Living With HIV as Expendable
by Gabriel Arkles
December 1, 2017
In a year of extraordinary challenges, people living with HIV and their allies are continuing the fight to decriminalize HIV and defend health care, a battle that remains as urgent as ever in Trump’s America.
Since the 1980s, many jurisdictions have created felony crimes specific to HIV, with sentences as high as 30 years in prison. Some of these laws punish people living with HIV for things no one else could be punished for, and others punish people living with HIV more harshly for the same crime. For example, in some states, solicitation becomes a felony if the person charged has been diagnosed with HIV.
These laws not only fail to prevent the spread of HIV, but they also stoke stigma against people living with HIV. Race and gender shape their enforcement. According to the Williams Institute, while Black women made up only 4 percent of people living with HIV in California, they made up 21 percent of those arrested in relation to their HIV status.