Letter: North Dakota has a chance to destigmatize HIV and AIDS
“Folks living with HIV/AIDS are valuable contributors to their families, communities, and warrant equal treatment under the law,” Fargo resident Kara Gloe writes.
House Bill 1281 is an opportunity to right a wrong. The current law is discriminatory and codifies stigma faced by people living with HIV/AIDS. Similar laws don’t exist for herpes, hepatitis or other STIs with no cure. Considering there have only been three convictions under this law, it’s a solution to a problem North Dakota has never had. Frankly, it does more harm than good.
As a mental health therapist serving people living with HIV/AIDS in North Dakota, every client discusses the stigma. For many, someone discovering their status without their consent is a fear constantly running through their minds. For many, it is or has been the reason they are isolated, stuck in unhealthy relationships, suffer from substance use disorder, etc. It’s a major contributing factor to depression, anxiety and/or has caused or contributed to trauma. It is the reason they stopped attending church or have lost their community. I have heard how others’ ignorance plagues my clients, either as thousands of paper cuts or as full frontal emotional and psychological assaults.
Medical advances take us further away from the AIDS epidemic and failed health policy of the 1980s. HIV is no longer a terminal illness, but rather a manageable long-term disease not unlike diabetes. People having access to resources needed to heal trauma and develop coping skills for thriving, instead of just surviving, benefits everyone. Folks living with HIV/AIDS are valuable contributors to their families, communities, and warrant equal treatment under the law. I hope North Dakota legislators and their constituents will send the message that North Dakotans agree.