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PJP Urges Rational Response to Prosecution of People Living With HIV

PJP Urges Rational Response to Prosecution of People Living With HIV

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Published by: housingworks on Apr 28, 2011
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04/28/2011

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Coalition of Public Health and Legal Experts Urges RationalResponse to Prosecution of People Living with HIV
Contact: Terrence Moore, 202.434.8000tmoore@nastad.orgCatherine Hanssens, 347.622.1400chanssens@hivlawandpolicy.org
(
New York 
, April 27, 2011) – The Positive Justice Project, a coalition of legaland public health experts that represent people living with HIV, is speakingout against sensationalist media coverage of criminal charges that havebeen brought against an HIV-positive African American man in Buffalo.Darryl Fortner, 20, who has no prior criminal record, has been charged withreckless endangerment for allegedly failing to disclose his HIV status to hissexual partners. The Positive Justice Project urges journalists to consider the following in theircoverage.A wide range of health and human rights organizations, including the UnitedNations High Commissioner for Human Rights, have condemned the criminalprosecution of people living with HIV for not disclosing their status. Whilethese prosecutions often
seem
to protect the public health, they actuallyundermine public health initiatives by discouraging testing and fuelingstigma. They also put HIV-positive people at high risk of unjust prosecution.President Obama’s own National HIV/AIDS Strategy, released in 2010,questions the efficacy of such laws and calls for a comprehensive review of them.“Rushing to judgment and demonizing a young black man on the basis of hisHIV status has a horrible impact not only on people who already arediagnosed with HIV, but on all of those in my community who are afraid toget tested,” said Kali Lindsay, a public policy expert at Harlem United and aperson living with HIV. “No one is going to get tested for HIV if they thinkthat knowing their status will land them in jail.”Fortner’s arrest is one in a long line of cases across the country where HIV-positive persons, often African American, are facing criminal charges anddisproportionately long sentences for otherwise-legal behavior on the basis
 
of their HIV status. Intent to transmit or intent to expose others to HIV israrely--if ever--a consideration in these cases, which typically turn into acredibility battle in which the person who has first discovered he or she isHIV positive is assumed to be dishonest.“The over-reaction to this type of situation has no support in public healthprinciples,” said Terrence Moore, Associate Director of Racial and EthnicHealth Disparities at the National Association of State and Territorial AIDSDirectors.On Wednesday, April 20, Fortner was charged with one count of recklessendangerment for allegedly not disclosing his HIV status prior to engaging insexual conduct. Journalists should keep in mind that to be charged under recklessendangerment in New York, one must have presented a “grave risk of death”to another person. HIV is no longer considered a death sentence, but rathera chronic disease.“These laws and prosecutions continue to occur because people incorrectlybelieve that HIV is quickly and invariably fatal and as such should be treateddifferently than other sexually transmitted infections,” said Vanessa Johnson,Deputy Executive Director of the National Association of People with AIDS.“That’s just not the case. And until legislators, law enforcement officials, andprosecutors understand HIV in the 21st-century, these miscarriages of justicewill continue to happen all over the country.”###**** The P
OSITIVE
J
USTICE
P
ROJECT
is the first coordinated national effort in the UnitedStates to address HIV criminalization, and the first multi-organizational andcross-disciplinary effort to do so. HIV criminalization has often resulted ingross human rights violations, including harsh sentencing for behaviors thatpose little or no risk of HIV transmission.For more information on the P
OSITIVE
J
USTICE
P
ROJECT
, go tohttp://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/public/initiatives/positivejusticeproject. To see the Center for HIV Law and Policy’s collection of resources on HIVcriminalization, go to:http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/resourceCategories/view/2 The P
OSITIVE
J
USTICE
P
ROJECT
has been made possible by generous support fromthe M.A.C. AIDS Fund, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Henry vanAmeringen Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. To learn more or

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