AIDS 2016: #BeyondBlame trended on Twitter during our HIV criminalisation pre-conference

Popular tweets for #BeyondBlame.
Sall Tamsir @SallTamsir1

RT @EbaPatrick: HIV criminalization preconference #beyondblame opens @aids2016 with full room #HIVrights @Lzloures @HIVJusticeNet https://t…

James Fry @thatfryboy

RT @HIVJusticeNet: There is some good news. Some #HIVcriminalisation laws are being opposed and defeated #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.c…

Abe O C Ogolo @ovolovely

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “Criminalisation leads only to violations of human rights” — Dr Herminie #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Alexander Pastoors @alexhvn

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “It’s a bit sad that after all these years we still have to have these meetings.” Johanna Kehler #BeyondBlame https://t.…

Paul Silva @PauloNYC

Women are disproportionately penalized under laws that criminalize HIV transmission or non-disclosure #ChallengeCrim #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“I am making a direct call. @potus, have the courage to sign an executive order to end #HIVcriminalisation.” Pinkela #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Naomi Burke-Shyne @NaomiSBS

RT @HIVJusticeNet: Where HIV prosecutions have taken place: @edwinjbernard #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Paul Kidd @paulkidd

RT @HIVJusticeNet: A standing ovation for #HIVcriminalisation survivor Kerry Thomas, speaking from prison. #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t…

Benjamin Riley @bencriley

“No evidence was produced, no medical, no physical, nothing but an allegation.” Kenneth Pinkela on his prosecution #AIDS2016 #BeyondBlame

Sall Tamsir @SallTamsir1

RT @_ARASAcomms: “Durban is indeed where we broke the conspiracy of silence. It is…here that we must end the tragedy of HIV criminalisati…


“In technical terms, I’ve been erased” after incredible 26-yr career and 272 days in military prison based on allegation only #BeyondBlame

Nic Holas @nicheholas

@BarbCardell– laws were being used as a blunt force instrument to get women, youth and homeless to admit to lesser laws #BeyondBlame

Ben Young @benyoungmd

Horrifying cases of #HIV criminalization. HT and thx. Rosemary Namiburu: Uganda, Kenneth Pinkela, Kerry Thomas: USA #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016


3rd inspiring speaker, Lt. Col. Kenneth Pinkela, dismissed 4 weeks ago from US army as result of appellate process #BeyondBlame


“How can we reach 90-90-90 when we are unjustly criminalizing HIV?” @HIVJusticeNet @TheSeroProject #BeyondBlame at #AIDS2016

Nic Holas @nicheholas

.@BarbCardell shares incredible examples of intersectionality within fight to repeal HIV crim in Colorado. #BeyondBlame

Nic Holas @nicheholas

@BarbCardell– Not only are HIV criminalisation laws offensive, they are bad science. #BeyondBlame


Breakout session happening now at #BeyondBlame: HIV criminalisation and the intersection with other criminalised and marginalised groups

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“HIV treatment works! We just have to get the law to follow. Ben Young of @IAPAC #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

nainadevi @nainadevi

“you have died of peer review” someone help this guy @trevorhoppe #AIDS2016 #BeyondBlame #Sociology


RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick of @UNAIDS says criminalisation undermines efforts to end HIV #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya @HIVJusticeNet


RT @Wanameme: Kerry Thomas says HIV is #BeyondBlame. He joined the preconference via phone from prison in Idaho, USA. @KELINKenya https://t…

Follow For Polls @follow_polls

#ChallengeCrim #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 Should failure 2 disclose HIV status 2 partner lead 2 jail time? (Vote,Rt)

Benjamin Riley @bencriley

“Emotional support is just as important… how do you deal with stigma from other inmates on a day-to-day basis?” Kerry Thomas #BeyondBlame

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

Question from audience at #beyondblame “Why do we allow these HIV Criminal cases to continue, it is not fair” @aids2016 what do we do?

Paul Kidd @paulkidd

RT @HIVJusticeNet: “The movement is growing, it is still led by people with HIV, but we have so many others on our side.” @edwinjbernard #B…

Aziza Ahmed @AzizaAhmed

RT @benyoungmd: Using tech to have Kerry Thomas address #BeyondBlame from prison for HIV exposure, despite condom/undetectable VL. https://…

Evgenia Maron @EvgeniaMaron

Как мы можем достигнуть цели 90-90-90, когда мы несправедливо криминализуем ВИЧ? @HIVJusticeNet @TheSeroProject #BeyondBlame at #AIDS2016

John Manwaring @eatatjohns

“Imagine 50,000 orgasms. That’s a lot of fluid.” Ben Young on the effectiveness of TasP. We’re all imagining… #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

RT @kenpinkela: Colorado shares success in #Durban #AIDS2016 #beyondblame @BarbCardell @PatSteadman @TheSeroProject @uspwn…

HIV Justice Network @HIVJusticeNet

“I am now a burden on the very society that I chose to defend, and I did nothing wrong.” @kenpinkela #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016


RT @Wanameme: “Criminalization can never be a solution to any health problem” Dr Herminie (Seychelles) #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya https://t.c…


RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick of @UNAIDS says Criminalisation undermines efforts to end HIV #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya #AIDS2016…


RT @Wanameme: @EbaPatrick “Parliament shouldn’t be an unexpected ally but a critical one in efforts to end HIV criminalisation” #BeyondBlam…


RT @Wanameme: Dora (UGANET) shares a recent petition filed to challenge sections of HIV Law in Uganda #BeyondBlame @KELINKenya…


#BeyondBlame hears live from Kerry Thomas from Idaho prison – 30 yr sentence for #HIV nondisclosure despite condom, undetectable viral load


Powerful stories of advocacy against unjust #HIV #criminalization from Colorado, Kenya, Uganda & Australia at #BeyondBlame


Ken Pinkela, US army soldier, tells of prosecution for #HIV non-disclosure based on mere allegation contradicted by evidence #BeyondBlame

FundersConcernedFCAA @FCAA

RT @bencriley: “As you hear our stories remember we have friends, co-workers, families, entire communities that are affected.” Kenneth Pink…

Ben Young @benyoungmd

Healthcare providers also face #HIV criminalization. Rosemary Namiburu, nurse (Uganda). #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 @IAPAC


“I am now a burden on the very society I chose to defend.” #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016

Matthew Waites @MatthewWaites

RT @_ARASAcomms: Attendees from 36 different countries at #BeyondBlame, the largest HIV de-criminalisation pre-conference to date #AIDS2016

Hornet App @HornetApp

RT @EbaPatrick: Kerry Thomas speaks to #beyondblame at @aids2016 from Idaho prison – says “HIV is beyond blame”

Barb Cardell @BarbCardell

RT @uspwn: #HIV Crim laws r blunt force instrument against sex workers youth, Trans, women- @BarbCardell #BeyondBlame #AIDS2016 https://t.c…

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Challenging HIV Criminalisation @ AIDS 2016, Durban

(29 min, HJN, South Africa, 2016)

On 17 July 2016, approximately 150 advocates, activists, researchers, and community leaders met in Durban, South Africa, for Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation – a full-day pre-conference meeting preceding the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) to discuss progress on the global effort to combat the unjust use of the criminal law against people living with HIV.

Attendees at the convening hailed from at least 36 countries on six continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America).

Beyond Blame was convened by HIV Justice Worldwide, an initiative made up of global, regional, and national civil society organisations – most of them led by people living with HIV – who are working together to build a worldwide movement to end HIV criminalisation.

The meeting was opened by the Honourable Dr Patrick Herminie, Speaker of Parliament of the Seychelles, and closed by Justice Edwin Cameron, both of whom gave powerful, inspiring speeches. In between the two addresses, moderated panels and more intimate, focused breakout sessions catalysed passionate and illuminating conversations amongst dedicated, knowledgeable advocates

USA: Criminalisation advocates explain why using the right language is key to success

Jennie Smith-Camejo, the communications director of Positive Women’s Network – USA, stood at the podium at the second HIV Is Not a Crime conference on HIV criminalization in May. Behind her was a PowerPoint presentation with several examples of recent egregious headlines about people living with HIV.

Woman With HIV Convicted of Biting Sister During Fight,” screamed one. “Man With HIV Assaults Hospital Employee,” read another. “Suspect Threatens to Transmit HIV to Police Officer,” announced a third.

“You don’t really hear [much] about HIV in the news anymore,” Smith-Camejo noted as she flipped through these headlines. “So, if these are what you’re seeing and hearing, what would you think?”

That is the challenge for people fighting HIV criminalization laws. How do you push past the fear and panic around HIV transmission when click-bait headlines dominate media coverage?

There’s no one opinion about what kind of messaging is most effective. For some, using language that appeals to their audience’s core values has been effective. Others reject that strategy, instead demanding more inclusive, intersectional messages that do not leave out the most vulnerable, such as sex workers and trans people.

“When you’re talking to people outside the HIV community, you have to think about what they’re thinking and hearing,” stated Jennie Smith-Camejo, the communications director of Positive Women’s Network – USA, an advocacy network of women living with HIV. “People’s views on policies and issues are more shaped by emotion than reason,” Camejo-Smith noted. But advocates have the power to appeal to these emotions. Using stories can change hearts and minds in ways that cold hard facts often do not, she said.

Jennie Smith-Camejo gives one example of messaging that appeals to a more conservative audience. When talking to people who may not care about the injustices of police profiling of trans women or HIV criminalization, she points to the way in which Cyd Nova, the harm reduction coordinator at the Saint James Infirmary, a clinic for current and former sex workers, frames the issue of policing as one that interferes with personal responsibility and protecting public health:

Trans women are disproportionately profiled and targeted by law enforcement for harassment and arrest. And because of policies like [using] condoms as evidence, trans women often face a choice between protecting themselves and their partners from HIV and risking arrest.

Effective messaging can sometimes prevent a harmful legislative amendment from even reaching the floor.LaTrischa Miles is a board member of Positive Women’s Network – USA, as well as the founder and president of Grace, a faith-based support group in in Kansas City for women affected by and living with HIV. When she learned that Missouri legislators planned to introduce a bill that would make it a crime for a person with HIV to spit at someone, she and other activists sprang into action. They contacted legislators and debunked the myths about saliva and HIV transmission. “Because they heard from us in the community, they didn’t even bring it forward for the hearing,” Miles recalled.

In Colorado, members of the Mod Squad and Senator Pat Steadman utilized language that appealed to a broader political spectrum as they pushed SB 146, a bill that repealed two criminalization statutes and reformed another. Instead of talking about criminalization as an injustice that needed to be eliminated, Steadman appealed to conservative values, such as personal responsibility. “We talked about barriers that criminalization poses to testing, treatment and public health,” Steadman stated in a celebratory address. “The biggest thing to take on is people’s fear and ignorance.”

To combat stigma and hammer home the importance of changing the law, Steadman’s talking point became: “The criminal law is a clumsy and ineffective tool for protecting public health.”

Advocates also shifted their messaging. Barb Cardell, a long-time HIV activist and member of the Colorado Mod Squad (“Mod” is short for modernization), recalled that the group had initially called themselves the HIV Decriminalization Task Force, then the STI Grassroots Modernization Alliance.

“We didn’t change anything else we were doing,” recalled John Tenorio, a rural Mod Squad member. Simply changing their name brought them more respect and support.

In Colorado, it appears that the shift worked. Steadman and the Mod Squad faced little opposition to repealing and reforming the criminalization statutes. (Instead, Steadman noted, the sticking point was the provision allowing minors to be tested and treated for HIV without parental consent.) SB 146 passed in both houses of the legislature and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

But not everyone agrees with shifting the message to appeal to more conservative audiences. “You have to think about decriminalization — true repeal of these outrageous laws. Don’t talk to me about modernizing things to make them sound better. I am not here to wait years and years and years for this to happen,” said Maxx Boykin, an organizing co-chair of the Chicago chapter of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), a national organization of 18- to 35-year-old black activists, and a community organizer at AIDS Chicago. He tied HIV criminalization to the pervasive state violence against black people, particularly black youth. “You have to stop criminalizing who I am, who my friends are.”

Appeals to modernize laws will not stop the collision of criminalization faced by those marginalized by race, gender identity and poverty, he explained. “I have to talk about how [criminalization] disproportionately affects black people,” Boykin told He draws parallels between HIV criminalization laws and the disparities in crack-cocaine sentencing. It’s a parallel that those already organizing against police and state violence understand all too well.

He also challenges people to think about criminalization as a whole, tying HIV criminalization to issues of racism and mass incarceration as well as explaining how people living with HIV are treated in prison and what HIV criminalization actually looks like.

Marco Castro-Bojorquez, a documentary filmmaker, community organizer and member of the steering committee for the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus, arrived in the United States from Mexico 20 years ago. For him, an intersectional analysis needs to be present in every discussion.

“It’s difficult to talk to people about race and class,” he told The “But you need to do it when talking about any injustice.” These conversations can be difficult, he acknowledged. “White people get offended or angry or sad,” he said. For them, he said, “it’s important to check your privilege and make sure you are not making us [people of color] responsible for your feelings. People don’t understand the amount of energy it requires for us [to explain racism and other injustices we face].”

He concentrates his energies on working with people who feel the brunt of marginalization the most — people of color, immigrants and trans people. In 2015 he helped launch Venas Abiertas: Una Red de Inmigrantes Latinxs Viviendo con el VIH/Sida (Open Veins: A Network of Latinx Immigrants Living With HIV/AIDS) for HIV-positive Latino immigrants to advocate for their needs and work with allies.

When Castro-Bojorquez talks about HIV criminalization, he’s often met with shock that such laws even exist. He recalls repeated conversations with his best friend. “He could not believe you could have sex with someone, use a condom, not transmit anything and still be thrown in jail,” he recounted. The two continued to have conversations about criminalization — and Castro-Bojorquez’s work to end it. “Now he’s super-knowledgeable about it,” he said.

Castro-Bojorquez also cautions against the tendency to characterize certain statutes as “not so bad,” explaining that “any law that criminalizes HIV is bad.”

Regardless of the words they choose, advocates say the message needs to be clear and not veer into other topics. Mark King, the blogger behind My Fabulous Disease, learned this firsthand.

In 1992, when Magic Johnson first announced that he was living with HIV, King was the newly appointed communications person for the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, which provided emotional support for people dying from AIDS-related complications. Johnson’s announcement inevitably sparked office gossip, including speculation about which AIDS organization Johnson might endorse as well as the fact that Elizabeth Taylor had sent Johnson flowers, King recalled. That gossip was still buzzing when the phone began ringing with press requests. “I was young and stupid,” King recounted and, when he spoke with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, he began chattering away, repeating the office gossip.

The next day, the Los Angeles Times ran King’s statements about Elizabeth Taylor and the rivalry for Johnson’s support among AIDS organizations. “I gave the reporter the story he wanted to write — about the competition among agencies — rather than the message I was supposed to deliver,” King recalled 24 years later. The lesson? “Hold on tight to your message and repeat it over and over so they can’t put in some stupid quote about Elizabeth Taylor.”

Victoria Law is a freelance writer and editor. Her work focuses on the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women.

Originally published in The Body

US: Democratic Party pledges to "address HIV criminalization laws" in its 2016 draft party platform

Democratic Party Comes Out Strong for LGBTQ Equality in 2016 Party Platform

HRC Blog by post by Stephen Peters

Today, the Democratic Party released its draft 2016 party platform, including key provisions that focus on improving the lives of LGBTQ people and advocating for full equality.

“This is the most LGBTQ-inclusive platform of any major U.S. party,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “We will continue to work with the Democratic Party to ensure the most robust platform for LGBTQ Americans. From protecting LGBTQ young people to ending the epidemic of violence against transgender people to passing an explicit and comprehensive federal non-discrimination law to bringing about an AIDS-free generation, the platform addresses many of the major challenges facing our community today.”

Here are some of the highlights:

LGBT Rights

Democrats applaud last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized LGBT people— like every other American—have the right to marry the person they love. But there is still much work to be done. LGBT kids continue to be bullied at school, a restaurant can refuse to serve a transgender person, and a same-sex couple is at risk of being evicted from their home. That is unacceptable and must change. Democrats will fight for comprehensive federal non- discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans and push back against state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates, and we will protect transgender individuals from violence. We will promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.

Civil Rights

Democrats will always fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. We need to promote civility and speak out against bigotry and other forms of intolerance that have entered our political discourse. It is unacceptable to target, defame, or exclude anyone because of their religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation.


Democrats believe an AIDS-free generation is within our grasp. But we know far too many Americans still suffer, which is why we will implement the National HIV and AIDS Strategy, increase research funding for the National Institutes of Health, cap pharmaceutical expenses for people living with HIV and AIDS, address HIV criminalization laws, and expand access for HIV prevention medications, particularly for the populations most at risk of infection. Abroad, we will make the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief more effective and increase global funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. Democrats will always protect those living with HIV and AIDS from stigma and discrimination.

Supporting our Troops

[…]Democrats welcome and honor all Americans who want to serve and will continue to fight for their equal rights and recognition. We are proud of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the opening of combat positions to women. Our military is strongest when people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities are honored for their service to our country.

Racial Justice

Democrats will fight to end institutional and systemic racism in our society. We will challenge and dismantle the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political, and social inequity. Democrats will promote racial justice through fair, just, and equitable governing of all institutions serving the public and in the formation of public policy. We will push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and there is no place for racism in our country.

Gun Violence Prevention

With 33,000 Americans dying every year, Democrats believe that we must finally take sensible action to address gun violence. While gun ownership is part of the fabric of many communities, too many families in America have suffered from gun violence. We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe. We will expand background checks and close dangerous loopholes in our current laws, hold irresponsible dealers and manufacturers accountable, keep weapons of war—such as assault weapons—off our streets, and ensure guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and those with severe mental health issues.

Webinar: HIV Criminalization Attitudes and Opinions of the American Public (Sero, 2016)

Presenters: Sean Strub and Dr. Rosita Thomas

Advocates fighting to end HIV criminalisation reach a global TV/web audience on The Stream

Last night, HIV criminalisation advocacy reached a global audience on both TV and the internet with The Stream, on Al Jazeera English.

During the 30 minute programme, HIV criminalisation survivor, and Sero advisory board member, Ken Pinkela appeared with co-hosts Malika Bilal and Omar Baddar in the Washington DC studio to discuss his case and the role HIV stigma played in his unjust prosecution and wrongful conviction.

He was joined via Skype by ARASA’s Executive Director, Michaela Clayton, who discussed the impact of HIV criminalisation on women in southern and eastern Africa.

Anand Grover, Senior Advocate at Supreme Court of India, founder of India’s Lawyers Collective, and a former UN Special Rappporteur on the Right to Health highlighted the many human rights concerns with a punitive approach to HIV prevention.

I was also on programme, highlighting the work of the HIV Justice Network and citing data from our recent report, Advancing HIV Justice 2.

Contributions were also seen from US HIV advocates Shawn Decker and Nina Martinez, and Colorado Senator Pat Steadman who worked with the Colorado Mod Squad to recently completely overhaul HIV criminalisation in Colorado.

Watch the entire programme below or on the The Stream’s website.

US: Second HIV is not a crime training academy creates an important intersectional shift in the US anti-HIV criminalisation movement

The second HIV Is Not a Crime Training Academy, which took place in May at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, brought together more than 300 advocates from 34 US states, as well delegations from Canada and Mexico.

Organised jointly by two of our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners, the Sero Project and Positive Women’s Network–USA, the meeting was a unique opportunity for the people most affected by HIV criminalisation to take centre stage and have their voices be heard.

As Mark S King’s blog post highlighted in his blog and video produced the week following the meeting:

The intersections of race, gender, and sexuality were given as much weight as strategy sessions on working with legislators and lawyers, and the program repeatedly drove home the fact that criminalizing behaviors related to specific groups of people is as American as apple pie. Plenary speakers included advocates for women (including transgender women), current and former sex workers, immigration reform and drug legalization advocates, and, most powerfully, people who have been prosecuted under HIV criminalization statutes.

The theme of intersectionality and what it means for HIV criminalisation advocacy was further explored in this thoughtful analysis from Olivia Ford at The

At the first HIV Is Not a Crime gathering in Grinnell, Iowa, in 2014, the sessions focused largely on unpacking the process of mounting a legislative campaign. Huntsville attendees also received training on important skills such as using data and collaborating with attorneys. The dominant theme, however, was the mandate to understand and combat HIV criminalization as a component of the system of over-policing and mass incarceration that disproportionately and unjustly impacts black people, queer folks, immigrants, drug users, sex workers, transgender individuals and those living with and without HIV at the intersections of this constellation of experiences.

The meeting was also an opportunity to celebrate the recent modernisation of Colorado’s HIV criminalisation statutes by the Colorado Mod Squad and their political allies, notably Senator Pat Steadman; and to hear from HIV criminalisation survivors and their families about what the HIV criminalisation – and the movement to end it – means for them personally.

The biggest political coup of the meeting was a welcome video from Hilary Clinton who said that if she wins the Presidential election, she will work to “reform outdated, stigmatising” HIV criminalisation laws.

Aside from those highlighted above, a number of other blog posts and articles have been produced since the meeting.  As well as a fantastic Storify compilation by PWN-USA of social media produced during the four days, these include pieces from:

In addition, the HIV Justice Network was there with our video advocacy consultant, Nicholas Feustel of georgetown media, capturing the entire event on video, and we will be releasing a film providing a detailed overview of the entire meeting, as well as lessons learned, in the next few weeks.

U.S.: Clinton Promises She’ll Reform HIV Criminalization Laws in her opening presentation at 2nd HIV is Not a Crime conference

Tonight, speaking via a pre-recorded video to attendees of the HIV is Not a Crime Training Academy, Hilary Clinton says if she wins the Presidential election, she will work to reform outdated, stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws. Clinton thanked attendees for their work, saying that efforts like HIV is Not a Crime “lift us all up.”

Saying we have “come a long way” since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Clinton acknowledged, “We still have long way to go.” She spoke about how HIV disproportionately impacts “communities of color, transgender people, gay and bisexual men and young people, around the world.”

Prior to Clinton’s speech, attendees had the pleasure of hearing from Kerry Thomas, talking via phone from an Idaho correctional center, where he’s serving a 30-year sentence. Thomas said he carries a photo with him from the first HIV is Not a Crime conference, held two years ago. Positive and thankful, Thomas nevertheless affirmed that the state court has dismissed his case, but promised “we’re appealing down the road.” Thomas shared his appreciation for outside support and thanked prison officials for allowing him to participate in events like this and serve on the Sero Project Board.

Bryan Jones (who, like Thomas was featured in our special on HIV in prison) described being open about his HIV status in prison as “somewhat suicidal,” and asked if things were different for Thomas.

Thomas replied that it hadn’t always been easy, but he’d recently become more vocal about his status, because, “At some point, someone has to say ‘That’s enough!’ and take on these things.”

Naina Khanna, Positive Women’s Network’s executive director, follwed Thomas, remarking how important his involvement was because, “We should be taking leadership from the people most impacted by these laws.”

PWN sponsored a post-welcome documentary screening of Consent, in which eight women examine the problems inherent in using sexual assault law to prosecute alleged non-disclosure. Khanna’s seemed to hint at that topic when she noted,

“Some of these laws have been put on the books to protect women” She added that sometimes, “women have been complicit in criminalization,” which is one reason the Positive Women’s Network is determined to be involved in HIV-decriminalization.

Khanna then spoke passionately about America being “a country built on back of people brought here forcibly,” arguing, “Our economy is based on people being policed and criminalized,” and that people with HIV weren’t the only targets: but also trans folks, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups.

Following Clinton’s televised speech, a panel formed on stage consisting of people who have been prosecuted and parents of several men currently imprisoned under HIV criminalization laws.

The most compelling was a young black man from Oklahoma who told of being arrested and charged with a felony for allegedly sneezing on someone.  When placed into custody, he claims the police put a bag over his head, and — allegedly because he responded, “What the fuck?” — he was charged with disorderly conduct.

Most of his charges have since been dropped, but he goes to court July 1st on the disorderly charge. Since being arrested, he said he has received death threats and has had to move several times. He told the audience that he had gone jogging for the first time in years without being worried he might be harassed.

His voice breaking, he added, “I appreciate you not looking at me like I’m dirty.”

Originally published in

Hillary Clinton’s full message to HINAC2 on ending HIV criminalization (2016)

A video recorded by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton specifically for the HIV is Not a Crime II – Training Academy.