When considering the criminalisation of COVID-19, lessons from HIV should be retained

Marginalised communities will not get justice from criminalising Covid-19 transmission

The criminalisation of the virus would create greater barriers to accessing healthcare systems already preventing many people from getting treatment.

After it was announced that no further action would be taken by police regarding the death of Belly Mujinga, a railway worker who contracted coronavirus after reportedly being spat on, there was national outcry. Her name has been plastered on placards at Black Lives Matter protests, while the public has pointed out that a man in Scotland who spat on a police officer while “joking” about coronavirus in April has been jailed for a year. But while this outrage is valid in the face of a government who continues to show their blatant disregard for black lives, criminalisation of diseases has been proven to be an ineffective tool for justice.

Over the past few months, parallels have been drawn between the Covid-19 pandemic and the HIV epidemic. Both viruses are communicable (they can be passed between people); both have been racialised, leading to racist and xenophobic attacks and stereotyping; community mobilisation has demanded adequate government public health responses for both health emergencies; and the impact of both viruses has highlighted the need for a global health approach which transcends borders. 

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic, many HIV organisations and activists advocated that the transmission of the novel coronavirus should not be criminalised. As public fear of Covid-19 grew, HIV advocates predicted the negative impact on public health and possibility of human rights violations, similar to those seen for people living with HIV. 

“Despite the evolving scientific knowledge, criminalisation laws have been written and implemented across the world faster than the development of the general understanding of the virus itself”

This strain of coronavirus is new and scientists are developing their understanding of it. In the past few weeks, there has been confusion about the probability of asymptomatic transmission (transmitting the virus when a person does not have Covid-19-like symptoms), as the WHO had previously commented that it was “very rare” and later stated that this wording had misled people. Despite the evolving scientific knowledge, criminalisation laws have been written and implemented across the world faster than the development of the general understanding of the virus itself. Globally, countries have implemented or have proposed laws against Covid-19 transmission and even exposure, without transmission, including Canada, France, India, and South Africa.

Often, the aim of criminalisation is to facilitate a tool for prevention and deterrence (to discourage people from passing on a virus) or as punishment for those who have or may have passed on a virus. HIV advocacy has illustrated over the years that the criminalisation of transmission or exposure is ineffective, and disproportionately impacts marginalised communities and negatively impacts public health.

In their Statement on Covid-19 Criminalisation, published in March, the HIV Justice Worldwide Steering Committee wrote that hastily drafted laws, as well as law enforcement, driven by fear and panic, are unlikely to be guided by the best available scientific and medical evidence – especially where such science is unclear, complex and evolving. “Given the context of a virus that can easily be transmitted by casual contact and where proof of actual exposure or transmission is not possible, we believe that the criminal justice system is unlikely to uphold principles of legal and judicial fairness, including the key criminal law principles of legality, foreseeability, intent, causality, proportionality and proof.”  

Since that statement was issued, internationally coronavirus laws have been weaponised against the most marginalised within society, as is the case with HIV criminalisation laws. The Ugandan government, for example, has used coronavirus laws to target marginalised LGBTQI+ groups, and in the UK, people of colour are fined more than the white population under coronavirus laws, in some cases leading to unlawful charges. In some cases people were even charged under the wrong law (e.g. enforcing Welsh law in England).

The director of legal services at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the public agency that conducts criminal prosecutions in England and Wales, found that 24% of cases reviewed had been charged incorrectly. In May a CPS press statement cited the speed and pressure to implement the laws as the cause of the wrongful charges. Across the Global North, it has been well documented that racialised communities are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation anticipates that LGBTQI communities will be disproportionately impacted by the virus. This is due to a myriad of reasons underpinned by systemic discrimination.

“Criminalisation of transmission or exposure is ineffective, and disproportionately impacts marginalised communities and negatively impacts public health”

HIV research has shown little evidence that criminalisation laws prevent transmission, in fact, it’s evidenced that such laws are bad for public health and fuel reluctance to get tested and treated. In the UK, testing and treatment of Covid-19 is free, as is the case with many other communicable diseases to remove the barrier to testing and treatment. Free testing and treatment access, irrespective of immigration status, is important, however, a briefing paper from Medact, Migrants Organise and New Economics Foundation (NEF), has shown that migrant communities blocked from healthcare because of the hostile environment, that “the coronavirus ‘exemption’ from charging and immigration checks is not working” and people have been asked to show their passports, and that people face additional obstacles such as language barrier and digital exclusion from emergency services. 

Criminalisation exacerbates public health issues: in a Channel 4 report, Migrants Organise spoke of a man who died at home for fear of being reported to immigration authorities if he accessed healthcare. The threat of immigration enforcement disproportionately impacts those in precarious work and those with precarious migration status, all of whom are more likely to come from racialised groups and in some cases groups which are hyper-surveilled and criminalised.

The role of healthcare and access to it needs to be reimagined, where people are viewed as patients not passports and healthcare professionals are not the extended arm of the Home Office. Governments must implement better employment rights, so that employers are held to account and do not put staff such as Belly Mujinga, in harmful positions. Governments must provide better statutory sick pay so those in precarious work do not have to choose between their health and putting food on the table. We need to overhaul systemically discriminatory processes that don’t look after the most vulnerable, rather than implementing laws – such as criminalisation – that will systematically punish them.

HIV criminalisation laws affect women negatively and impede the effectiveness of implementing state programmes

Can HIV criminalisation protect women from becoming infected?

Translated from Original article in Russian via Deepl.com – For article in Russian, please scroll down.

In many countries, HIV-related criminal liability still exists. At least 68 countries have laws that specifically criminalize hiding information about HIV infection from your sex partner, putting another person at risk of HIV infection, or transmitting HIV. The leaders in the number of criminal cases related to HIV in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia are Belarus and Russia.

In 2018, 20 scientists from around the world developed an Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the context of Criminal Law. It describes a detailed analysis of the available scientific and medical research data on HIV transmission, treatment efficacy, and evidence to better understand these data in a criminal law context.

Legislation regarding HIV transmission should be reviewed. I point out various facts to this – HIV treatment is available, antiretroviral therapy (ART) effectively reduces the viral load to undetectable and reduces the risk of HIV transmission during sexual contact to zero [1,2,3,4], criminalization initially stigmatizes people who are HIV-positive people and violates their human rights.

One of the arguments in favour of criminal liability for HIV transmission is the alleged protection of women in situations where their husbands or partners become infected with HIV. This argument is often used in Central Asian countries. Let’s look at real-life examples and statistics on how much women are actually protected by existing laws.

In early 2018, thanks to human rights defenders and human rights defenders, the article “Vikino Delo” appeared in the media, about a 17-year-old pupil of an orphanage, who was convicted under subsection 122 (1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for knowingly putting another person at risk of HIV infection. In 2017, Vika met a man F. (31 years old) on a social network. When they had an intimate relationship, the girl offered to use a condom, but F. refused. Vika did not tell F. that she had HIV. From the girl’s testimony provided in court, it was clear that she did not want to put the victim at risk of infection, and did not say the diagnosis because she was afraid. She tried to hint at him, telling about her HIV-infected friend. F. proposed to be tested for HIV together. As a result, he has a minus, she has a plus. F. filed a complaint with Vic to the police. The man decided to punish the girl for insufficient, in his opinion, sincerity. Following the verdict, Vicki’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Supreme Court. On the recommendation of the Supreme Court, given that at the time of the commission of the “crime” she was a minor, apply a sentence of warning to her. At the same time, no one took the blame from her. The leading role in protecting and supporting Vicki was played by the female community in the guise of Association “EVA”.

The situation with the Vicki case is commented on by human rights activist Elena Titina, head of the Vector of Life Charity Fund, who acted as a public defender in court: “Women are subjected to even greater stigma, condemnation, and therefore do not protect themselves. Vicki’s case is very revealing in this. For three years, during the whole trial, the girl simply had to listen to insults, humiliation against her, the remarks were incorrect – and on the part of the plaintiff, this 31-year-old man, on the part of judges, prosecutors, even lawyers sometimes behaved like elephants in a china shop. She, in my opinion, is the heroine. I’m not sure that an adult woman would have endured what Vick had endured and come to the end, defending her rights. Her criminal record was removed. A unique thing, I am very proud that I participated in it. “This is the only thing that has ended so far because I don’t know of any more such precedents with a conditional happy ending

In the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation , in which almost one and a half million cases of HIV infection among citizens are only officially registered, there is article 122 “Transmission of HIV infection”. Disaggregation of data began in 2017, from 01/01/2017 to 12/31/2019, in total, within the framework of 122 articles, 150 sentences were sentenced according to the main qualification in parts 1-4. 93 sentences were pronounced against men (62%), 57 (38%) – against women. It is noteworthy that in Part 1, “Knowingly putting the other person at risk of HIV infection” is condemned by more women: 56.4% versus 43.6% of men.

According to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Tajikistan for 2018, there were 10.7 thousand people with HIV in the whole country, of which about 7 thousand were men. It was noted that in 54.6% the virus was transmitted sexually, and in some regions, the proportion of such cases reaches 70%.

For reference: since July 2015, to register a marriage in Tajikistan, you must undergo a medical examination, which includes an HIV test.

Tajikistan became one of the few countries (and the only one in the EECA region) to which CEDAW issued a recommendation dated November 9, 2018: “Decriminalize the transmission of HIV / AIDS (Article 125 of the Criminal Code), and repeal government decrees of September 25, 2018 and October 1, 2004 years prohibiting HIV-positive women from getting a medical degree, adopting a child, or being a legal guardian. ”

Instead, on January 2, 2019, President Emomali Rahmon signed a series of laws, including those aimed at “strengthening the responsibility of doctors, beauty salons, hairdressers and service enterprises, which are due to non-compliance with sanitary, hygiene, anti-epidemic rules and regulations caused HIV / AIDS. ” From that moment, a lot of publications appeared in the media, illustrating not only the widespread informing of Tajik citizens about the requirements being followed but also the increase in the number of publications on criminal penalties related to HIV.

According to the results of media monitoring conducted by the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network, in 2019, 23 publications on HIV were registered in the electronic media of Tajikistan. Among them, two topics were divided equally: general information on the responsibility for HIV transmission and statistics, as well as publications that women are accused of, such as:

“27-year-old woman suspected of having HIV / AIDS deliberately infecting”,

“Two women in northern Tajikistan convicted of HIV infection”,

“In Tajikistan, a woman convicted of“ deliberate HIV infection ”by 23 men was sentenced”,

“A resident of Kulyab of Tajikistan is suspected of intentionally acquiring HIV”,

“Two women in Khatlon have infected dozens of men

Among these publications, there is not one that describes particular cases of men. We already wrote about the vulnerability of women in August last year in our interview with attorney Zebo Kasimova.

We could not obtain statistical data on the number of cases brought under article 125 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, “HIV infection”. Particularly important would be information disaggregated by sex – that is, disaggregated data, the collection of which makes special sense, in view of the state’s argument for the protection of women. The importance of disaggregated statistics is stated in the Sustainable Development Goals – the Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015: only accurate, reliable, comprehensive thematic data will help us understand the problems we are facing and find the most suitable solutions for them.

Olena Stryzhak, one of the founders of the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network and the head of the Positive Women BO, is actively promoting the decriminalization of HIV in Ukraine  “I have been on the committee for the second year in the validation of elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis at the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, and actively participate not only in the activities of the committee in our country but also attend international meetings of the Committee at WHO, communicate with many people working in this field.

One of the obstacles for women to seek medical help and treatment on time is the fear of prosecution, the fear of possible criminal liability. In Ukraine, I was able to obtain statistics on the number of criminal cases under article 130 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, disaggregated by sex. I was surprised by the statistics, because, starting in 2015, only women were convicted under this article. This negatively affects not only the women themselves but also the effectiveness of implementing state programs, including the process of validating the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV

From the last case in Ukraine, for 2018: “… Since the defendant refused, the specialist for child services extended her hands to the child in order to pick her up, but the defendant bit her left hand.” From the conviction: “The court decided to qualify the actions of the defendant … Part 4 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine as a complete attempt on intentional infection of another person with human immunodeficiency virus. “

Does it mean that if only women were convicted, the fact that only women are sources of infection? From an alternative shadow report of the Tajikistan Network of Women Living with HIV, presented at the 71st session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in November 2018: “In violation of their rights, as a rule, women do not go anywhere. During the study of the situation when writing this report, violations of the rights of women living with HIV and women from affected groups were identified, only a few decided to defend their rights and because they were provided with a lawyer at the expense of the project. The reasons for this behaviour are different. One of the main reasons is the lack of financial resources to pay for the services of a lawyer. Secondly, many women living with HIV and women from HIV-affected groups have low legal literacy; they do not have information about who to contact on a particular issue. Thirdly, self-stigmatization and the fear of confidentiality also prevent women living with HIV and women from HIV-affected groups from defending their rights. ”

It is clear from the report that women do not defend their rights, especially on such sensitive issues, for fear of feeling even more condemned and becoming even more vulnerable. In addition, in the countries of Central Asia, families have traditions when a daughter-in-law must tell her husband or mother-in-law where she goes and what she is going to spend or spent money on (by the way about paying a lawyer). Women depend on other family members, and often do not have their own money.

Violence against women increases their risk of HIV infection, while the very presence of HIV infection in a woman also increases the risk of violence, including from relatives, due to her vulnerability and low self-esteem.

The criminalization of HIV does not work, either as a preventive measure nor as a way to protect women from infection, as decision-makers try to imagine. On the contrary, with specific examples, we observe that women are more vulnerable.

Sources:

[1] – Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, Gamble T, Hosseinipour MC, Kumarasamy N, et al. Prevention of HIV-1 infection with early antiretroviral therapy. N Engl J Med. 2011 Aug 11; 365: 493-505.

[2] – Rodger AJ, Cambiano V, Bruun T, Vernazza P, Collins S, van Lunzen J, et al. Sexual activity without condoms and risk of HIV transmission in serodifferent couples when the HIV-positive partner is using suppressive antiretroviral therapy. JAMA. 2016; 316: 171-81.

[3] – Grulich A, Bavinton B, Jin F, Prestage G, Zablotska, Grinsztejn B, et al. HIV transmission in male serodiscordant couples in Australia, Thailand and Brazil. Abstract for 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, USA, 2015.

[4] – Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, Gamble T, Hosseinipour M, Kumarasamy N, et al. Antiretroviral Therapy for the Prevention of HIV-1 Transmission. N Engl J Med. 2016 Sep 1; 375 (9): 830-9. 


Может ли криминализация ВИЧ защитить женщин от инфицирования?

Во многих странах все еще существует уголовная ответственность, связанная с ВИЧ. По меньшей мере 68 стран имеют законы, которые специально предусматривают уголовную ответственность за сокрытие информации о наличие ВИЧ-инфекции от своего партнера по сексу, поставление другого лица в опасность инфицирования ВИЧ или передачу ВИЧ. Лидерами по количеству уголовных дел, связанных с ВИЧ, в регионе Восточной Европы и Центральной Азии являются Беларусь и Россия.

В 2018 году, 20 ученых из разных стран мира разработали Заявление об экспертном консенсусе в отношении использования научных данных о ВИЧ в системе уголовного правосудия. В нем описан подробный анализ имеющихся данных научных и медицинских исследований о передаче ВИЧ, эффективности лечения и доказательства, позволяющие лучше понять эти данные в уголовно-правовом контексте.

Законодательные нормы в отношении передачи ВИЧ должны быть пересмотрены. На это указываю различные факты — лечение ВИЧ-инфекции доступно, антиретровирусная терапия (АРТ) эффективно снижает вирусную нагрузку до неопределяемой и снижает риски передачи ВИЧ при сексуальном контакте до нуля [1,2,3,4], криминализация изначально клеймит людей ВИЧ-положительных людей и нарушает их права человека.

Один из аргументов в пользу существования уголовной ответственности в отношении передачи ВИЧ — это якобы защита женщин, в тех ситуациях, когда их мужья или партнеры инфицируют их ВИЧ. Этот аргумент довольно часто используют в странах Центральной Азии. Давайте рассмотрим на реальных примерах и статистических данных, насколько женщины на самом деле защищены существующими законами.

В начале 2018 года, благодаря правозащитницам и правозащитникам, в СМИ появилась статья «Викино дело», о 17-ти летней воспитаннице детского дома, которую осудили по части 1 статьи 122 УК Российской Федерации за заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения ВИЧ-инфекцией. В 2017 году Вика познакомилась в социальной сети с мужчиной Ф. (31 год). Когда у них была интимная связь, девушка предложила использовать презерватив, но Ф. отказался. Вика не сказала Ф., что у нее ВИЧ. Из показаний девушки, предоставленных в суде, было видно, что она не желала ставить потерпевшего в опасность заражения, и не сказала о диагнозе, потому что боялась. Она пыталась намекнуть ему, рассказывая о ВИЧ-инфицированной подруге. Ф. предложил вместе сдать анализы на ВИЧ. В результате у него — минус, у нее — плюс. Ф. подал на Вику заявление в полицию. Мужчина решил наказать девушку за недостаточную, на его взгляд, искренность. После вынесенного приговора адвокатом Вики была подана жалоба в Верховный Суд. По рекомендации Верховного Суда, учитывая, что на момент совершения «преступления» она была несовершеннолетней, применить к ней наказание в виде предупреждение. При этом вину с неё никто не снял. Ведущую роль в защите и поддержке Вики сыграло женское сообщество в лице Ассоциации “ЕВА”.

Ситуацию с делом Вики комментирует правозащитница Елена Титина, руководительница БФ «Вектор жизни», которая выступала общественой защитницей в суде: «Женщины подвергаются еще большей стигме, осуждению, поэтому не защищают себя. Дело Вики очень показательно в этом. Девочке пришлось в течение трех лет, пока длился весь судебный процесс, просто выслушивать оскорбления, унижения в свой адрес, реплики некорректные — и со стороны истца, этого 31-летнего мужчины, со стороны судей, прокуроров, даже адвокаты порой вели себя как слоны в посудной лавке. Она, на мой взгляд, героиня. Я не уверена, что взрослая женщина выдержала бы то, что выдержала Вика, и дойти до конца, защищая свои права. С нее сняли уголовную статью. Уникальное дело, я очень горжусь, что я в нем участововала. Это единственное на сегодняшний момент дело, которое так закончилось, потому что больше таких прецедентов, с условным хэппи-эндом я не знаю».

В Уголовном кодексе Российской Федерации, в которой только официально зарегистрировано почти полтора миллиона случаев ВИЧ-инфекции у граждан, существует статья 122 “Заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией”. Дезагрегация данных начата в 2017, с 01.01.2017 по 31.12.2019 всего в рамках 122 статьи вынесено 150 приговоров по основной квалификации по частям 1-4. 93 приговора вынесено в отношении мужчин (62%), 57 (38%) — в отношении женщин. Примечательно, что по части 1 “Заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения ВИЧ-инфекцией” осуждается больше женщин: 56,4% против 43,6% мужчин.

По данным Министерства здравоохранения Республики Таджикистан за 2018 год, всего по стране насчитывалось 10,7 тысяч людей с ВИЧ, из них порядка 7 тысяч — мужчины. Отмечено, что в 54,6% вирус передался половым путем, а в некоторых регионах доля таких случаев достигает 70%.

Для справки: с июля 2015 года для регистрации брака в Таджикистане необходимо пройти медицинское обследование, которое включает тест на ВИЧ.

Таджикистан стал одной из немногих стран (и единственной в регионе ВЕЦА), которой КЛДЖ дал рекомендацию от 09 ноября 2018 года: “Декриминализировать передачу ВИЧ/СПИДа (статья 125 Уголовного кодекса), и отменить постановления правительства от 25 сентября 2018 года и 1 октября 2004 года, запрещающие ВИЧ-положительным женщинам получать медицинскую степень, усыновлять ребенка или быть законным опекуном”.

Вместо этого, 02 января 2019 года президент страны Эмомали Рахмон подписал ряд законов, в том числе направленных на «усиление ответственности врачей, работников салонов красоты, парикмахерских и предприятий по обслуживанию, которые из-за несоблюдения санитарно-гигиенических, санитарно-противоэпидемических правил и норм стали причиной заражения вирусом ВИЧ/СПИД». С этого момента в СМИ появилось множество публикаций, иллюстрирующих не только широкое информирование граждан Таджикистана о выполняемых предписаниях, но и увеличение количества публикаций об уголовных наказаниях в связи с ВИЧ.

По результатам медиа-мониторинга, который проводит Евразийская Женская сеть по СПИДу, в 2019 году в электронных СМИ Таджикистана зарегистрировано 23 публикации по теме ВИЧ. Среди них поровну разделили места две темы — это общая информация относительно ответственности за передачу ВИЧ и статистика, а также публикации, в которых обвиняются женщины, как, например:

“27-летняя женщина подозревается в преднамеренном заражении ВИЧ/СПИД”,

“Двух женщин на севере Таджикистана осудили за заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией”,

“В Таджикистане вынесли приговор женщине, обвиняемой в «умышленном заражении ВИЧ» 23 мужчин”,

“Жительница Куляба Таджикистана подозревается в преднамеренном заражении ВИЧ”,

“Две женщины в Хатлоне заразили десятки мужчин”.

Среди этих публикаций нет ни одной, описывающей частные случаи в отношении мужчин. Об уязвимости женщины мы уже писали в августе прошлого года в нашем интервью с адвокатессой Зебо Касимовой.

Статистические данные о количестве дел, возбужденных по статье 125 УК Республики Таджикистан, “Заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией”, нам получить не удалось. Особенно важной была бы информация с разбивкой по полу — то есть дезагрегированные данные, сбор которых имеет особый смысл, ввиду аргументации государства о защите женщин. О важности дезагрегированной статистики говорится в Целях устойчивого развития — Резолюции, принятой Генеральной Ассамблеей ООН в 2015 году: только точные, достоверные, всесторонние тематические данные позволят понять проблемы, стоящие перед нами, и найти для них самые подходящие решения.

Елена Стрижак, одна из основательниц Евразийской Женской Сети по СПИДу и руководительница БО “Позитивные женщины”, активно продвигает тему декриминализации ВИЧ в Украине“Я уже второй год состою в комитете по валидации элиминации передачи ВИЧ и сифилиса от матери к ребенку при Министерстве здравоохранение Украины, и активно принимаю участие не только в деятельности комитета в нашей стране, но и посещаю международные заседания Комитета в ВОЗ, общаюсь со многими людьми, работающими в этой сфере.

Одним из препятствий к тому, чтобы женщины вовремя обращались за медицинской помощью и за лечением, служит страх обвинения, страх перед возможной криминальной ответственностью. У нас в Украине я смогла получить статистические данные о количестве уголовных дел по статье 130 УК Украины, с разбивкой по полу. Была удивлена статистикой, потому что, начиная с 2015 года, по этой статье были осуждены исключительно женщины. Это негативно отражается не только на самих женщинах, но и на эффективности реализации государственных программ, в том числе на процессе валидации элиминации передачи ВИЧ от матери к ребенку”.

Из последнего кейса по Украине, за 2018 год: «…Так как подсудимая отказалась, специалист службы по делам детей протянула руки к ребенку с целью забрать ее, но подсудимая укусила ее за левую руку». Из обвинительного приговора: «Суд принял решение квалифицировать действия подсудимой … ч. 4 ст. 130 УК Украины как оконченное покушение на умышленное заражение другого лица вирусом иммунодефицита человека».

Означает ли, что если осужденными оказались только женщины, тот факт, что только женщины являются источниками инфицирования? Из альтернативного теневого доклада Таджикистанской сети женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, представленного на 71-й сессии Комитета ООН по ликвидации всех форм дискриминации в отношении женщин в ноябре 2018 года: “При нарушении их прав, как правило, женщины никуда не обращаются. В ходе изучения ситуации при написании данного отчета выявлены нарушения прав женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, и женщин из затронутых групп, только единицы решились защищать свои права и то, потому что им был предоставлен адвокат за счет проекта. Причины такого поведения различны. Одна из основных причин, это отсутствие финансовых средств на оплату услуг адвоката. Во-вторых, многие женщины, живущие с ВИЧ, и женщины из затронутых ВИЧ групп имеют низкую правовую грамотность, у них нет информации о том, к кому обратиться по тому или иному вопросу. В-третьих, самостигматизация и боязнь разглашения конфиденциальности также мешает женщинам, живущим с ВИЧ, и женщинам из затронутых ВИЧ групп защищать свои права.”

Из доклада ясно, что женщины не защищают свои права, особенно по таким чувствительным вопросам, из-за страха почувствовать еще больше осуждения и стать еще более уязвимыми. Кроме того, в странах Центральной Азии, в семьях есть традиции, когда невестка должна сказать мужу или свекрови, куда она идет, и на что она собирается тратить или потратила деньги (к слову об оплате адвоката). Женщины зависят от других членов семьи, и часто не имеют своих собственных денег.

Насилие в отношении женщин увеличивает для них риск инфицирования ВИЧ, в то же время само наличие ВИЧ-инфекции у женщины также увеличивает опасность насилия, в том числе и со стороны родственников, из-за ее уязвимости и заниженной самооценки.

Криминализация ВИЧ, ни как превентивная мера, ни как способ защиты женщин от инфицирования не работает, как это пытаются представить люди, принимающие решения. Наоборот, на конкретных примерах мы наблюдаем, что женщины оказываются более уязвимыми.

Источники:

[1] — Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, Gamble T, Hosseinipour MC, Kumarasamy N, et al. Prevention of HIV-1 infection with early antiretroviral therapy. N Engl J Med. 2011 Aug 11; 365:493-505.

[2] — Rodger AJ, Cambiano V, Bruun T, Vernazza P, Collins S, van Lunzen J, et al. Sexual activity without condoms and risk of HIV transmission in serodifferent couples when the HIV-positive partner is using suppressive antiretroviral therapy. JAMA. 2016; 316:171-81.

[3] — Grulich A, Bavinton B, Jin F, Prestage G, Zablotska, Grinsztejn B, et al. HIV transmission in male serodiscordant couples in Australia, Thailand and Brazil. Abstract for 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Seattle, USA, 2015.

[4] — Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, Gamble T, Hosseinipour M, Kumarasamy N, et al. Antiretroviral Therapy for the Prevention of HIV-1 Transmission. N Engl J Med. 2016 Sep 1; 375(9):830-9. 

Canadian study provides damning evidence of the “dramatic overrepresentation” of Black men in HIV criminalisation news reporting

A new study published this month by a group of leading Canadian social science academics provides damning evidence of the extraordinary over-representation of Black and Black immigrant male defendants in news reporting of Canadian HIV criminalisation cases.

Eric Mykhalovskiy and Colin Hastings from York University, Toronto; Chris Sanders from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay; and Laura Bisaillon from the University of Toronto Scarborough, analysed 1680 English-language articles published between 1989 and 2015.

They found that Black men comprised 21% of those charged with HIV criminalisation offences – which under Canadian law relates to non-disclosure of known HIV-positive status, usually charged as aggravated sexual assault –  but were the focus of 62% of newspaper articles covering the issue. The pattern was amplified for Black men who were immigrants or refugees who made up 15% of those charged but were the focus of 61% of newspaper stories.

The researchers note:

“The result is a type of popular racial profiling in which HIV non-disclosure is treated as a crime of Black men who are represented as dangerous, hypersexual foreigners who threaten the health and safety of the public and, more broadly, the imagined Canadian nation.”

 

The study is important for more than its quantitative findings, as it also considers the role of the media in the construction of public perception.

The researchers argue that media reporting involves a process of “recontextualization,” which occurs when speech is selected and moved from one place (e.g. a court) and fitted into another for a different purpose (e.g. a media story). In other words, they say, information is “selectively reported and repurposed into news stories”.

Their analysis found that in media reporting of HIV criminalisation cases, ‘whiteness’ became a neutral position. This usually meant that when a person was white their ethnicity or immigration status was rarely, if ever, mentioned.

For Black men living with HIV, however, the researchers found that the reporting was racialised, depicting such men as morally blameworthy and discussing them in terms of their “immigration status, hypersexuality, and other forms of racialised difference”.

Consequently, they argue, Black men living with HIV are depicted in these news reports not only as a threat to individual complainants, but also as a threat to Canadian society.

The researchers also discussed how news media reporting routinely involves forms of writing that silence people facing HIV-related criminal charges. Their experiences are rarely heard which, they summise, is likely due to reporters’ decisions about who to quote, as well as defendants being discouraged by their laywers to publicly comment on their cases.

Consequently, people living with HIV involved in HIV criminalisation cases are only spoken about, and their lives are only known about within the context of crime stories.

The authors hope their analysis will help advocates “to intervene in popular news coverage of HIV non-disclosure”, urging the use of counter-narratives emphasising how HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission should be seen as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.

They conclude:

The profound silencing of Black immigrant men in newspaper coverage of HIV non-disclosure suggests the need to support strategies that create an affirmative presence in mainstream media for Black men living with HIV.


Source

Eric Mykhalovskiy, Chris Sanders, Colin Hastings & Laura Bisaillon (2020) Explicitly racialised and extraordinarily over-represented: Black immigrant men in 25 years of news reports on HIV non-disclosure criminal cases in Canada, Culture, Health & Sexuality, DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2020.1733095

Further resources

 

UNAIDS “extremely concerned” by new COVID-19 laws that target people living with or vulnerable to HIV

This week, echoing the concerns of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee, amongst others, UNAIDS issued a strongly worded press release condemning governments for abusing the current state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic for overreaching their powers and enacting laws that target people who are living with, or vulnerable, to HIV.

“In times of crisis, emergency powers and agility are crucial; however, they cannot come at the cost of the rights of the most vulnerable,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Checks and balances that are the cornerstone of the rule of law must be exercised in order to prevent misuse of such powers. If not, we may see a reversal of much of the progress made in human rights, the right to health and the AIDS response.”

Notably, UNAIDS singles out EU member states, Hungary and Poland.

In Hungary, a new bill has been introduced to remove the right of people to change their gender and name on official documents in order to ensure conformity with their gender identity, in clear breach of international human rights to legal recognition of gender identity.

In Poland, a fast-tracked amendment to the criminal law that increases the penalties for HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission to at least six months in prison and up to eight years in prison has been passed—a clear contravention of international human rights obligations to remove HIV-specific criminal laws.

In addition, UNAIDS condemns overly zealous policing that is especially targeting key populations already stigmatised, marginalised, and criminalised.

UNAIDS is also concerned by reports from a number of countries of police brutality in enforcing measures, using physical violence and harassment and targeting marginalized groups, including sex workers, people who use drugs and people who are homeless. The use of criminal law and violence to enforce movement restrictions is disproportionate and not evidence-informed. Such tactics have been known to be implemented in a discriminatory manner and have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable: people who for whatever reason cannot stay at home, do not have a home or need to work for reasons of survival.

They single out Uganda where “23 people connected with a shelter for providing services for the LGBTI community have been arrested—19 have been charged with a negligent act likely to spread infection or disease. Those 19 are being held in prison without access to a court, legal representation or medication.”

They also highlight Kenya as a model of cjvil society rapid response to human rights concerns following the release of an advisory note “calling for a focus on community engagement and what works for prevention and treatment rather than disproportionate and coercive approaches.”

The statement concludes:

While some rights may be limited during an emergency in order to protect public health and safety, such restrictions must be for a legitimate aim—in this case, to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. They must be proportionate to that aim, necessary, non-arbitrary, evidence-informed and lawful. Each order/law or action by law enforcement must also be reviewable by a court of law. Law enforcement powers must likewise be narrowly defined, proportionate and necessary.

UNAIDS urges all countries to ensure that any emergency laws and powers are limited to a reasonable period of time and renewable only through appropriate parliamentary and participatory processes. Strict limits on the use of police powers must be provided, along with independent oversight of police action and remedies through an accountability mechanism. Restrictions on rights relating to non-discrimination on the basis of HIV status, sexual and reproductive health, freedom of speech and gender identity detailed above do not assist with the COVID-19 response and are therefore not for a legitimate purpose. UNAIDS calls on countries to repeal any laws put in place that cannot be said to be for the legitimate aim of responding to or controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNAIDS recently produced a new guidance document that draws on key lessons from the response to the HIV epidemic: Rights in the time of COVID-19: lessons from HIV for an effective, community-led response.   

US: New report by the Williams Institute finds that Florida’s HIV criminal laws undermine pubic health efforts

Florida’s HIV criminal laws undermine public health efforts

For Immediate Release
March 12, 2020

Media Contact
Rachel Dowd
dowd@law.ucla.edu
(310) 206-8982 (office) | (310) 855-2696 (cell)

The laws deter testing, disclosure, and other HIV prevention strategies

Florida’s HIV criminal laws may undermine the state’s public health efforts by deterring people from seeking HIV testing and treatment, stigmatizing those with HIV, and disproportionately affecting the communities most impacted by HIV, including people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the formerly incarcerated, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

HIV criminalization is a term used to describe laws that either criminalize otherwise legal conduct or that increase the penalties for illegal conduct based upon a person’s HIV-positive status. Florida has four HIV-specific criminal laws.

Using data from the Criminal Justice Information Services at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, researchers found that from 1986 to 2017, there were 266 convictions under Florida’s HIV criminal laws—approximately eight convictions per year.

None of the convictions required intent to transmit HIV as an element of the crime, and none required actual transmission of HIV.

“HIV is treatable, preventable, and harder to transmit than was thought in the early years of the AIDS epidemic when Florida’s HIV criminal laws were passed,” said lead author Brad Sears, the David Sanders Distinguished Scholar of Law and Policy at the Williams Institute. “Enforcement of these laws disproportionately stigmatizes the very communities Florida needs to engage to combat HIV.”

This research was generously funded by a grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Read the report

Russia: 23 year-old Kazakh woman, who has lived in Russia since she was 3, expelled because she was diagnosed with HIV

Kazakh woman expelled from Russia due to HIV

Kazakh woman expelled from Russia due to HIV

She will have to leave her husband, home and work in the Sverdlovsk region to get a chance for free therapy and life.

A native of Kazakhstan, who has been living in Russia for 20 years, is being expelled from the country due to HIV, e1.ru reports .

Svetlana is 23 years old. 20 of them she lived in a small town near Yekaterinburg. And was born in Kazakhstan. And the passport is also a citizen of Kazakhstan. This fall, for the first time in many years, she was not able to extend RVP (temporary residence permit in Russia), because she was diagnosed with HIV during the routine testing of these papers.

– In our country, Federal Law No. 38 “On Preventing the Spread of HIV in Russia” is in force, it contains article 11, which states that all foreigners who have been diagnosed with HIV should be immediately deported from the country. They “carry a danger to humanity,” this law says. There is a chance to stay in the country, but it is very small. If the parents, children or the spouse of the foreigner are citizens of the Russian Federation, and the foreigner himself can prove that he will not constitute a threat of spreading the infection, then the court can guarantee yourself the right to life in Russia, ”commented the lawyer of the New Life Foundation (NPO, which helps people living with HIV in the Urals) Marina Chukavina.

However, as they say in the fund itself, most often the situation is different. Migrants simply go into an illegal situation, and they buy drugs that they need to take for life and which the government provides to Russian citizens for free, at the pharmacy. On average, illegal immigrants have to spend 7-10 thousand rubles a month on antiretroviral therapy.

– Deportation is pointless in the economic, and even in the epidemiological sense. Obviously, in most cases, foreigners do not bring HIV, but become infected here. The highest HIV prevalence across the entire region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia today is in Russia. Why this norm today is not clear at all. But for migrants with HIV, it makes life difficult. If we talk about the citizens of Central Asia, many of them cannot return to their native village, because there they will simply be killed. And so it turns out that from the moment the decision was made, the person is nowhere: he has no way back home and here he is outside the law. As a result, someone forges documents, buys certificates, someone hides all his life, ”says Kirill Barsky, program manager for the Steps AIDS Foundation.

Kirill is a member of the regional expert group on migrant health, which collects stories from all over the country and requires a review of outdated legislation. The fact that the expulsion norm is morally outdated is also indicated by the infectious disease doctor from Yekaterinburg, Mark Aganin.

– It’s the same as if we today began to live according to the laws of the 19th or 18th centuries. The law was passed in 1995 when HIV was feared like fire and did not really understand how to work with it. But if then this fear was normal, then today everything has changed. Everything except this discriminatory law, says the doctor.


Казахстанку выдворяют из России из-за ВИЧ

Ей придется бросить мужа, дом и работу в Свердловской области, чтобы получить шанс на бесплатную терапию и жизнь.

Уроженку Казахстана, которая 20 лет живет в России, выдворяют из страны из-за ВИЧ, сообщает e1.ru.

Светлане 23 года. 20 из них она прожила в небольшом городе недалеко от Екатеринбурга. А родилась в Казахстане. И по паспорту тоже гражданка Казахстана. Этой осенью она впервые за много лет не смогла продлить РВП (разрешение на временное проживание в России), потому что во время традиционной для оформления этих бумаг сдачи анализов у нее обнаружили ВИЧ.

– В нашей стране действует ФЗ № 38 “О предупреждении распространения в России ВИЧ”, в нем есть статья 11, которая говорит о том, что все иностранцы, у которых обнаружен ВИЧ, должны быть немедленно депортированы из страны. Они “несут опасность для человечества”, говорит этот закон. Шанс остаться в стране есть, но он очень небольшой. Если родители, дети или супруг иностранца являются гражданами РФ, а сам иностранец сможет доказать, что не будет представлять собой угрозу распространения инфекции, то по суду можно гарантировать себе право на жизнь в России, — комментирует ситуацию юрист фонда “Новая жизнь” (НКО, которая помогает на Урале людям, живущим с ВИЧ) Марина Чукавина.

Впрочем, как говорят в самом фонде, чаще всего ситуация складывается другим образом. Мигранты просто переходят на нелегальное положение, а лекарства, которые нужно принимать пожизненно и которые гражданам России государство предоставляет бесплатно, покупают в аптеке. В среднем в месяц на антиретровирусную терапию иностранцам-нелегалам приходится тратить по 7–10 тысяч рублей.

– Депортация бессмысленна и в экономическом, и даже в эпидемиологическом смысле. Очевидно, что в большинстве случаев ВИЧ иностранцы не привозят, а инфицируются здесь. Наибольшая пораженность ВИЧ по всему региону Восточной Европы и Центральной Азии сегодня именно в России. Зачем эта норма сегодня, вообще непонятно. Но мигрантам с ВИЧ она серьезно осложняет жизнь. Если говорить про граждан Центральной Азии, многие из них не могут вернуться в родной аул, потому что там их просто убьют. И вот получается, что с момента, как вынесли решение, человек нигде: ему нет обратной дороги домой и здесь он вне закона. В итоге кто-то подделывает документы, покупает справки, кто-то всю жизнь прячется, — говорит Кирилл Барский, руководитель программ фонда борьбы со СПИДом “Шаги”.

Кирилл входит в региональную экспертную группу по здоровью мигрантов, которая собирает истории со всей страны и требует пересмотра устаревшего законодательства. О том, что норма о выдворении морально устарела, говорит и врач-инфекционист из Екатеринбурга Марк Аганин.

– Это все равно как если бы мы с вами сегодня начали жить по законам XIX или XVIII века. Закон был принят в 95-м, когда ВИЧ боялись как огня и толком не понимали, как с ним работать. Но если тогда этот страх был нормальным, то сегодня все изменилось. Все, кроме этого дискриминирующего закона, — говорит врач.

US: HIV criminalisation laws increase stigma and discrimination and impede effective treatment and prevention

These laws were meant to protect people from HIV. They’ve only increased stigma and abuse.

By 

Laws in many states make it a crime to have sex without disclosing your HIV status. Advocates say they may actually worsen the spread of the virus.

The policy: Criminal penalties for knowingly exposing someone to HIV

Where: Twenty-six states around the country

In place since: The 1980s

The problem:

In March 1981, an otherwise healthy Los Angeles man contracted a rare form of pneumonia usually seen only in people with severely compromised immune systems. Doctors treated him with antibiotics, but his condition worsened, and within two months, he was dead.

The Center for Disease Control, as it was then known, identified four similar cases — generally healthy young men who suddenly became very ill with the same rare lung disease — and in June 1981 published the first official report on the condition that would become known as AIDS. By the time the report was published, another of the men had died. By the end of the year, there were 337 reported cases of the condition, and 130 people had died.

Researchers discovered HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1984. But the death toll kept rising, and the panic along with it. Fear and misunderstanding of the disease were such that when one student at a New York City school was thought to have the virus, 944 of the school’s 1,100 students stayed home, according to a Time magazine report. In one 1985 poll, 50 percent of people supported a quarantine of people with AIDS. Amid this panic, the idea emerged that “there were people who were intentionally spreading HIV,” Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at the LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal, told Vox.

The idea may have been fueled by longstanding social prejudices, including homophobia. As journalist Steven Thrasher writes in a Guardian column on the now-debunked myth of a gay flight attendant as HIV’s “Patient Zero,” “we like to blame individuals (especially queer folks, women, immigrants and people of color) for diseases, particularly communicable ones that involve sex. Societally, it is far easier to blame them for disease rather than to deal with the complex medical, political and epidemiological causes.”

Nonetheless, states soon began instituting criminal penalties for knowingly exposing others to the virus — Florida, Washington, and Tennessee did so in 1986, Helen McDonald writes at Autostraddle. In 1990, the federal Ryan White Act, which provided funding for HIV treatment, required states to show they could prosecute people who exposed others to HIV. The laws began to proliferate, and by 2011, 33 states had one or more laws criminalizing HIV exposure. As of last year, such laws remained on the books in 26 states, according to the CDC.

How it worked:

The first problem with the laws was a simple one, according to Schoettes and others: The crime they were intended to combat didn’t actually exist. There is no evidence that a significant number of people were ever intentionally trying to infect other people with HIV.

But because many of the laws were broadly written, they were used to prosecute people who had never intended to harm anyone else — and, in some cases, who had done no harm.

Mark Hunter, for example, told Vox that he contracted HIV at the age of 7 through treatment for his hemophilia. Hunter led a healthy and active life — he had a six-figure job in Washington, DC, he said, when, in 2006, two ex-partners filed charges against him for failing to disclose his HIV status to them. Neither woman had contracted the virus, but nonetheless, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Arkansas, where the charges were filed.

Hunter ended up serving three years. Today, he is out on parole and living in Louisiana, but he still has to register as a sex offender. He is an outspoken advocate against laws of the kind that sent him to prison. “When we talk about criminalization, the base issue is stigma,” he told Vox. “That stigma comes from fear.”

Hunter’s is just one of many such stories. Perhaps the best-known case is that of Nick Rhoades, who had sex with another man in 2008 without disclosing his HIV status. The other man subsequently learned that Rhoades had HIV and went to a doctor for antiretroviral medication. The law in Iowa, where the men lived, required the doctor to notify police that a sex crime had occurred, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The men had used a condom, and Rhoades’s partner had not contracted the virus. Nonetheless, Rhoades was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Stories like these have also made people around the country afraid to get tested because “you can’t be prosecuted under one of these laws unless you know your HIV status,” Schoettes said. Testing and treatment are key ways of reducing HIV transmission, and by making people afraid to get tested, HIV criminalization laws may actually increase the spread of the virus.

study conducted in Toronto between 2010 and 2012 (laws criminalizing HIV exposure also exist in Canada) found that 7 percent of men who had sex with men were less likely to get an HIV test for fear of future prosecution — the study authors estimated that this fear could lead to an 18.5 percent increase in HIV transmission. And in general, HIV criminalization laws likely contribute to stigma and discrimination around HIV, which world health groups like UNAIDS have identified as some of the biggest barriers to effective treatment and prevention.

Meanwhile, “these laws were used to manipulate and coerce people to stay in abusive relationships,” Tami Haught, organizing and training coordinator for the SERO Project, a group that works to end HIV criminalization, told Vox. In Iowa, where Haught lives, it was difficult for people with HIV to definitively prove they had disclosed their status to their partners as the law required. Haught recalls a woman living with HIV whose abusive boyfriend told her, “if you call the cops or leave me I will tell them you didn’t disclose your status.” If that happened, the woman, not her abuser, could go to prison.

People with HIV were even afraid to report being raped, Haught said, for fear that they could be prosecuted for failing to disclose their status during the rape.

Those sentenced under the law, meanwhile, could face decades in prison even if they had used condoms. Once released, they were often forced to register as sex offenders. In Iowa, that meant having their HIV status disclosed publicly, sometimes with a mug shot in the newspaper, Haught said. They were subject to curfews and computer searches, had to submit to twice-yearly lie detector tests, and needed permission from authorities to leave the county, she added: “They were treated as if they were these dangerous predators rather than having a consensual sexual experience with another adult.”

In recent years, though, states have begun changing their laws. Iowa was the most high-profile example. Rhoades challenged his conviction in court in 2010, and around the same time, activists began lobbying state legislators to reform the law.

Rhoades and many others fought for years to get the Iowa law changed. Finally, in 2014, then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed a new law significantly reducing the penalties for exposing others to HIV. Under the new law, if someone intentionally infects someone else with HIV, the person can still face up to 25 years in prison. But if a person with HIV only acts with “reckless disregard” in exposing someone else to the virus — for example, by not using protection — that person can face one to five years in prison, depending on whether the other party actually contracts the virus. Meanwhile, taking “practical measures to prevent transmission” of the virus makes someone exempt from prosecution, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy.

The law also removed the requirement that people convicted of exposing others to HIV register as sex offenders, and allowed previously convicted people to be removed from the sex offender registry. After the law was signed, two Iowans who had been forced to register as sex offenders under the old law had their ankle monitors publicly removed in celebration, Haught said. That year, Rhoades won his court case, and his conviction was set aside.

Many critics have argued the changes to Iowa’s law don’t go far enough. “HIV transmission should not be criminalized—ever,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. “HIV criminalization laws do absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of the virus.”

But in general, Schoettes said, it’s been very difficult to convince state legislators to remove penalties completely. Also, “our concern is if you get rid of the law, prosecutors may just proceed under general criminal laws without parameters or guidance” — in some states, for example, people with HIV have been prosecuted for reckless endangerment or even assault with a deadly weapon. For that reason, Lambda Legal has backed reforming rather than removing these laws.

These efforts have had success in California, where in 2017 then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law ensuring that people cannot be prosecuted based on HIV status unless they actually intend to transmit the virus and do so. Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina have also reformed their laws or regulations around HIV, Haught said. And according to Schoettes, advocates are also working to repeal or reform HIV criminalization laws in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere.

Today, Mark Hunter is “in a good place,” he said. He is married, and has adopted his wife’s son from a previous relationship. He has a job with the state of Louisiana, he’s a deacon in his church, and he has started an HIV/AIDS foundation named after his brother. He will be off parole in April 2020.

But his driver’s license still has the words “sex offender” printed on it. And around the country, he still sees a lot of stigma around HIV.

“Change is coming,” he said, “but it’s coming slow.”


Anna North covers gender issues, reproductive rights, workplace discrimination, LGBTQ rights, and more for Vox. Previously, she worked for The New York Times.

US: Charges of HIV exposure for spitting, despite absence of risks, prove that Georgia needs to modernise its HIV laws

HIV-positive man’s arrest for spitting called ‘plain and simple discrimination’

A 31-year-old man in Rome, Ga., was charged with exposing police officers to HIV after allegedly spitting on them, which HIV activists said highlights why the state needs to fix its HIV laws.

Authorities said JS was swearing at people and making obscene gestures near the intersection of Maple Road and Park Road on Aug. 25, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. S allegedly spat on officers after being apprehended by the Floyd County Police Department.

S was charged with criminal trespass, two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, three misdemeanor counts of willful obstruction of police officers and three felony counts of assault on police officers by someone with HIV, according to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. He is being held without bond in the Floyd County Jail.

HIV cannot be transmitted by spitting, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. S’s arrest highlights why Georgia needs to modernize its HIV laws, according to Nina Martinez of the Georgia HIV Justice Coalition.

“In 2019, it’s not breaking news that saliva does not transmit HIV,” she told Project Q Atlanta. “And yet, the punishment for a person living with HIV who spits on a police officer is potentially 20 times greater than that for someone not living with HIV who commits the same offense. This is state-sanctioned discrimination, plain and simple.”

Malcolm Reid, another member of the Georgia HIV Justice Coalition, agreed with Martinez.

“Although we don’t know much about this specific case, we do know that there is no chance of HIV transmission through spit,” he said. “This proves once again that the laws in Georgia need to catch up to science. HIV is not a crime.”

Georgia is one of some three-dozen states that criminalize a lack of HIV disclosure. Activists and lawmakers have tried for years to modernize state law by decriminalizing HIV. 

A Republican lawmaker introduced an HIV decriminalization bill on the final day of this year’s legislative session. It will be back in the 2020 session in January.

An Athens man was arrested in July after allegedly having sex with a woman without informing her he had HIV. He was charged with reckless conduct by a person with HIV. He remains in Athens-Clarke County Jail nearly two months later on a $3,000 bond, according to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.

A gay Atlanta man was arrested for HIV exposure in South Carolina in 2015. He claimed he disclosed his status before having sex with the alleged victim. The charges were later dropped.

US: Michael Johnson’s release has reignated calls to overhaul HIV exposure laws.

He Emerged From Prison a Potent Symbol of H.I.V. Criminalization

Last week, Michael L. Johnson, a former college wrestler convicted of failing to disclose to sexual partners that he was H.I.V. positive in a racially charged case that reignited calls to re-examine laws that criminalize H.I.V. exposure, walked out of the Boonville Correctional Center in Missouri 25 years earlier than expected.

Mr. Johnson, 27, was released on parole on Tuesday after an appeals court found that his 2015 trial was “fundamentally unfair.” His original sentence was longer than the state average for second-degree murder.

Reached by phone two days after his release, Mr. Johnson said he was rediscovering freedom through convenience store snacks, cartoons and his cellphone.

“I’m feeling really, really good,” he said.

But there were periods when he felt intimidated by people who did not believe he had a right to stand up for himself, he added.

His case, which encompasses a half-dozen years of court appearances, unflattering headlines and stints in solitary confinement, has galvanized advocates working to update laws that they say further stigmatize and unfairly penalize people with H.I.V.

Mr. Johnson, who was a black, gay athlete at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., has become a public face of people who are disproportionately affected by the virus and entangled in the criminal justice system. (If current trends continue, about half of all black men who have sex with men in the United States will eventually learn they have H.I.V., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Mr. Johnson’s legal troubles began in 2013, when he was arrested after a white man he had had consensual sex with told the police he believed that Mr. Johnson had given him the virus.

Five other men, three of them white, would later testify that Mr. Johnson had not only failed to disclose his H.I.V. status before engaging in consensual sex, but had willfully lied about it.

Mr. Johnson has publicly maintained that he informed all six men he was H.I.V. positive before having sex without a condom.

After a weeklong trial in 2015 in St. Charles County, a conservative, predominantly white area northwest of St. Louis, Mr. Johnson was convicted on multiple felony counts, including recklessly infecting another with H.I.V., which carries a 10-year minimum sentence.

The jury sought the maximum penalty of 60½ years even though prosecutors offered no genetic evidence that Mr. Johnson had infected any of his partners, according to BuzzFeed News.

The judge ultimately sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

Today, some of the people who put him in prison say the sentencing and parts of the prosecution were mishandled.

“We’re still operating under laws that were based on views that are outdated and are proven inaccurate by science,” said Tim Lohmar, the St. Charles County prosecuting attorney, whose office’s handling of the trial has been criticized.

Missouri is one of about 34 states with laws that make it a crime to expose another person to the virus without disclosure or add additional penalties for people with H.I.V. who are convicted of separate offenses, such as sex work, according to the nonprofit Center for H.I.V. Law and Policy. In six states, a person may be required to register as a sex offender if convicted of an H.I.V.-related crime.

Many of these laws were written in the 1980s and 1990s under a fog of fear about the virus and how it was transmitted, and before the advent of effective treatments. In those years, Magic Johnson’s sweat on the basketball court and Greg Louganis’s blood on a diving board panicked fans and teammates. Parents pulled children from school in 1985 because an H.I.V.-positive boy with hemophilia was in their seventh-grade class.

Back then, an H.I.V. diagnosis meant debilitating symptoms and almost certain death.

For the last five years, Steven Thrasher, a journalism professor at Northwestern University, has chronicled Michael L. Johnson’s case for BuzzFeed News and recently completed his doctoral dissertation on race and H.I.V. criminalization.

Dr. Thrasher, who greeted Mr. Johnson outside the correctional facility on Tuesday, said he was first drawn to the case because of its parallels with the history of black sexuality and lynching.

“Black men would just get lynched anytime they had sex with white women in the Reconstruction period,” he said. “There was no consensual sex that could be had between white women and black men.”

Mr. Johnson’s wrestler’s body — he called himself “Tiger Mandingo” online — was a source of fascination for some of his partners. But when Mr. Johnson tested positive for H.I.V., Dr. Thrasher wrote, he became “the perfect scapegoat.”

“It was not that he had no agency or responsibility in the story,” Dr. Thrasher said on Thursday, but “he was really holding all of this anxiety and all of this worry about AIDS and stigma and H.I.V. and queerness in America all on his shoulders.”

Mr. Lohmar, the St. Charles County prosecutor, said on Thursday that “nothing about the trial was unfair,” except for his team’s failure to present certain evidence to the defense in time.

Because prosecutors did not disclose some evidence to the defense until the morning of the trial — recorded phone conversations Mr. Johnson made while in the county jail — an appeals court decided to overturn the conviction 17 months after the original sentencing.

Instead of a new trial, Mr. Johnson, who previously had a clean criminal record, accepted a plea deal in which he did not admit guilt but agreed to a 10-year sentence.

Eric M. Selig, the lawyer who negotiated on Mr. Johnson’s behalf, said the original sentence was disproportionate to the crime.

“We don’t charge people with other incurable diseases, like hepatitis, with a criminal offense for exposing others,” he said.

During his incarceration, Mr. Johnson wrote thank-you notes to friends and strangers who had written to him in support, which he said helped him deal with homophobia in prison and self-doubt.

“You lose your confidence,” he said. “I kept every single letter.”

In theory, H.I.V. exposure laws are meant to encourage H.I.V.-positive individuals to disclose their status before having sex, and to practice safer sex, with the ultimate goal of preventing the spread of the virus.

But there is no evidence that these laws have reduced risky behavior or encouraged disclosure, said Catherine Hanssens, the executive director of the Center for H.I.V. Law and Policy, which provided legal support for Mr. Johnson’s case.

In the eyes of the law, an H.I.V. diagnosis is conflated with malice, she added.

“These laws effectively treat an H.I.V. diagnosis itself as evidence that the person acted with bad intentions when sex or other types of physical contact are involved in a crime,” she said.

Additionally, many laws do not reflect recent treatment options that can give patients a life expectancy almost as long as the general population. A pill taken daily can almost eliminate transmission, experts say. But there remain large barriers to eradicating the virus, including the high cost of antiretroviral drugs, access issues, medical mistrust and other social barriers in poor and black communities.

While some states, like California, have reduced penalties for H.I.V. exposure, Missouri has one of the most punitive laws in the country. This year lawmakers introduced two bills into the Legislature that would have slightly reduced the penalty, but they never made it to a vote.

Mr. Lohmar said he learned of Mr. Johnson’s release after receiving a call from one of the witnesses in the trial, who was upset that he was not notified.

Mr. Johnson said he planned to return to college, learn a second language and share his story through advocacy organizations like the Ryan White Planning Council in Indiana. Younger people especially need to learn about the virus to prevent it from spreading, he said.

“You can’t do it without education.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Meredith McFadden explores the ethical issues of criminalising health statuses

The Criminalization of HIV Transmission and Responsibility for Risky Behavior

Michael Johnson was released from prison on July 9th after serving five years of his original sentence of thirty years. He was in prison for failing to disclose his HIV status to his sexual partners and his sentence was longer than the state average for murder. The conviction covered transmitting HIV to two men and exposing four more to the virus, despite “an absence of genetic fingerprinting to connect him to the other men’s HIV strains.”

Johnson’s trial highlights the racist and homophobic undertones of the continued fear around HIV exposure. The images shown to the jury emphasized the darkness of Johnson’s skin, his muscularity (he was a star football player), and that two-thirds of the allegedly exposed men were white. The racist stereotypes regarding the sexuality of black men hurt Johnson’s chances in this trial, which were already slim given cringe-worthy missteps by his court-appointed public defender who claimed her client was “guilty until proven innocent.”

In the years since the trial and conviction, Johnson’s case has been a focal point of the discussion of the sexualization of black bodies and the inherent racism and homophobia in our criminal justice system. HIV criminalization laws disproportionately affect non-straight black men. Beyond these issues of justice, there is also the family of questions of the ethics surrounding sexual health. Johnson’s case is one of many where sexual relationships and health statuses are interpreted criminally, and the laws surrounding HIV transmission are not structured to reflect current empirical understandings of how the disease spreads. 

Empirical evidence regarding HIV criminalization laws suggests that having such laws do not affect disclosure of HIV status to partners or decrease risk behaviors. A key component to the sexual ethics debate, arguably, is that people who are HIV positive can be treated to the point that it is an empirical impossibility that they transmit the virus to sexual partners. When medicated, people with HIV can have an undetectable viral load, which means that there isn’t enough of the virus in the person’s system to turn up on standard tests. This makes it basically no more likely for them to transmit HIV to their partners than a partner without HIV. 

In light of this empirical reality, how should we ethically understand the risk of sexual behaviors? In recent years, some states have taken steps to make their laws more in line with the health reality of HIV transmission in particular: California has a bill that lessens the offense of knowingly transmitting HIV to a misdemeanor and a similar bill has been proposed in North Carolina. An attorney from the office that originally prosecuted Johnson in Missouri has become a supporter of a recent failed bill that would reduce punishment for knowingly expose someone to HIV in that state.

Knowingly exposing someone to risk is an ethically interesting area. There are cases where we knowingly expose people to risks and it seems ethically unproblematic. A bus driver exposes their passengers to risk on the road. A tandem jumper exposes their client to risk diving out of a plane. A friend exposes a guest to risk cooking for them, in operating ovens, in attempting to achieve safe temperatures and adequate freshness of ingredients.

There are two major ethical principles at work here, because knowingly exposing someone to risk is putting them in a position of potential harm. Serving a dinner guest a meal that you have reasonable expectations of harming them is an ethically problematic action, and we would hold you responsible for it. 

In similar yet ethically unproblematic cases, it could be that the case satisfies an ethical principle of respecting someone’s autonomy – the person consented to take on the risk, or the risk is part of their life-plan or set of values. For example, your guest would have to consent to the risk if you are serving your guest the famed potentially poisonous fish dish from Japan, fugu, where the smallest mistake in preparation could be fatal.

Another scenario where posing potential harm to someone could be unproblematic is under circumstances where the risk is so minimal or typical that if harm were to result, we wouldn’t consider another morally culpable. If you are serving dinner to a group of people buffet-style in the winter, this increases everyone’s to the risk of catching colds and flus from one another but typically we don’t’ take this to be ethically problematic. These two principles are at play when considering the risk of sexual behaviors. 

There are reasons to take on risks to one’s health and well-being, and we