[Update]US: Illinois governor signs bill to decriminalise HIV transmission into law

New law repeals criminal penalties for HIV transmission

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law Tuesday that repeals criminal penalties for people who transmit HIV to others.

House Bill 1063, sponsored by Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, and Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat, deletes language adopted in Illinois and many other states during the early days of the HIV epidemic that made it a felony for an individual to engage in certain activities such as unprotected sex, donating blood or tissue or sharing nonsterile intravenous needles knowing that he or she was infected with HIV.

“Research has shown these laws … don’t decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” Pritzker said. “It’s high time that we treat HIV as we do other treatable transmissible diseases, thereby treating our residents with dignity and furthering our mission to end this epidemic in Illinois.”

At a bill signing ceremony in Chicago, Pritzker said the legislation is one more step his administration is taking to ensure equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.

Other steps have included providing financial aid to transgender students who otherwise would not qualify for federal aid, requiring curriculum in public schools that includes contributions of the LGBTQ community, and expanding Medicaid to cover gender-affirming surgery.

Pritzker was joined at the ceremony by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly who helped pass the bill, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and other LGBTQ rights activists.

Peters noted that the law in Illinois did not require that a person actually transmit HIV to be convicted of the crime, only that they engaged in activity that could have exposed another person to the virus.

“Too often, when faced with a challenge in society, we seek the hammer of criminalization,” Peters said. “When we faced the challenge of HIV, our country reacted out of fear, prejudice and hate, and with that brought down a violent and horrendous hammer. In turn, this caused more fear, pain and trauma for people living with HIV. It did nothing to bring safety or treatment or public health to our world.”

The bill decriminalizing HIV was one of four bills Pritzker signed Tuesday that were supported by advocates for LGBTQ rights.

Pritzker also signed two bills making it easier for transgender individuals to change their names and gender identity on marriage certificates.

Senate Bill 139 establishes a process for individuals to change the gender language on their marriage certificates while House Bill 2590 establishes a uniform standard that county clerks must adhere to for name changes on marriage certificates. Those bills were sponsored by Sen. Sara Feigenholtz and Rep. Ann Williams, both Chicago Democrats.

In addition, Pritzker signed a House Bill 3709, which prohibits insurance companies from imposing restrictions on coverage of fertility medications and treatments, enabling LGBTQ individuals and single parents to receive those treatments under the same conditions as heterosexual individuals. It also reduces the waiting time to receive those treatments for women over age 35.

That bill was sponsored by Rep. Margaret Croke, a Chicago Democrat and Sen. Laura Fine, a Glenview Democrat.

“For decades, our state insurance law discriminated against countless Illinoisans looking to welcome a child into their family, putting parenthood financially out of reach for same-sex couples, single women and others,” Croke said in a statement. “Setting things right and creating a more inclusive insurance law was long overdue.”


Published on 25 May 2021 in theDaily Herald

Bill decriminalizing HIV transmission passes Senate

The Illinois Senate on Tuesday passed a measure decriminalizing the transmission of HIV.

The measure has already passed the House and will need only a signature from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to become law.

House Bill 1063 would eliminate existing criminal statutes that penalize HIV transmission as a Class 2 felony. If Pritzker signs the bill, Illinois would join 11 other states that do not have laws criminalizing the transmission of HIV, including Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

HB 1063 also would repeal existing laws allowing law enforcement or state’s attorneys to access a person’s HIV status. Under current criminal law, a person who transmits HIV to another person can be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV.”

Current law prohibits the forced disclosure of a person’s HIV status but provides exceptions for law enforcement officials or state’s attorneys to subpoena or petition for the HIV status of criminal defendants.

The Illinois HIV Action Alliance, which lobbied for the bill, praised its passage.

“The truth is HIV criminalization never improved safety or public health in Illinois — in instead, it has only caused suffering to people living with HIV, their families, and their communities. It has promoted stigma and discrimination, and it has discouraged testing, treatment, and disclosure for decades,” the group wrote in a written statement Tuesday.

Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, was lead sponsor in the House.

It passed out of the Senate by a vote of 37-17 on Tuesday, and passed from the House last month by a vote of 99-9.


Published May 5, 2021 in The Daily Herad

Senate committee advances bills on sex ed, decriminalizing HIV transmission

Legislation that would overhaul sex education in Illinois and a measure to decriminalize the transmission of HIV were among several bills that passed the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday.

The Executive Committee advanced an amendment to House Bill 1063, filed by Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat. It passed through the committee in an 11-4 vote to advance to the Senate floor.

Current Illinois law allows for individuals to be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV,” while also allowing for law enforcement to compel criminal defendants to test for HIV/AIDS in order to determine whether to charge them for the crime.

“Those living with HIV deserve to be able to receive treatment for their condition, and not risk arrest or incarceration,” Peters said in a release Wednesday. “It’s time we end the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and start treating them like the medical conditions that they are.”

The bill would eliminate the charge from Illinois statute, and would amend the AIDS Confidentiality Act — a statute that protects Illinoisans from having an HIV-positive status disclosed — to remove exemptions for law enforcement from the provision.

Lawmakers in the House voted 90-9 last month to pass the legislation. It now needs only majority support in the Senate to be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature.

Other legislation advanced by the committee Wednesday includes a provision that allows teachers unions to collectively refuse to go to work due to abnormally dangerous health and safety conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and another extending by three years the length lottery funds will go toward Alzheimer’s disease care.


Published April 15, 2021 in News Press Now

Illinois House votes to decriminalize HIV transmission

The Illinois House Judiciary Criminal Committee advanced two bills Tuesday with unanimous support, one to decriminalize transmission of HIV and another to expand protections for survivors of sexual assault.

An amendment to House Bill 1063, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons, of Urbana, changes several Illinois statutes related to persons living with HIV/AIDS and its transmission. On Wednesday, the House approved the bill 90-9, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

Under current Illinois law, a person who transmits HIV to another person can be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV.”

The AIDS Confidentiality Act, meant to protect Illinoisans from having an HIV-positive status disclosed or used against them, contains exceptions allowing law enforcement officials to subpoena or petition for the HIV status of criminal defendants in order to determine whether they should be charged for potential criminal transmission.

“We would not put a law on the books today that will criminalize COVID for people who refuse to test, and people who know they’re spreading COVID but refused to test and refuse to wear a mask, we would not then criminalize people for knowingly passing COVID,” Ammons told the committee.

Her legislation would repeal existing laws allowing law enforcement or state’s attorneys to access the HIV status of an individual and would remove criminal statutes for the transmission of HIV completely.

“This is why we’re trying to change this law is because this is the only (sexually transmitted infection) that we have on the books that literally criminalizes certain communities and is specifically targeted,” Ammons said.

Witnesses testifying in support of the bill told the committee that the criminal statute has been used in 22 cases since 2012, and fewer than 10 times since 2017.

“HIV and our knowledge about prevention and transmission has dramatically changed in the last 30 to 40 years,” Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association said in his testimony. “The (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recognizes that a person who is HIV positive, but who takes medication regularly stays virally suppressed, is undetectable on their viral load, and is effectively no risk for the transmission of HIV.”

According to Hughes, the criminalization of HIV status poses a significant obstacle to public health by incentivizing people to not get tested or disclose their status to their partner out of fear of criminalization.

Under questioning from committee member Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, Hughes said that during his time working for the Illinois Department of Public Health, most cases involving the criminal transmission of HIV “revolved around communities of color” and had a disproportionately negative impact on those groups.

Mazzochi noted that after insulin, HIV medication was “one of our largest spends in the state of Illinois.” She indicated that she would support the measure as long as studies showed it would reduce HIV transmissions rather than increase rates once it became decriminalized.

Ultimately, Mazzochi and other Republicans on the committee joined the Democratic majority to send the legislation to the House floor in a 17-0 vote.

House Bill 1732, introduced by Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, expands protections for sexual assault survivors by amending the Civil No Contact Order Act. That law allows for “victims of non-consensual sexual conduct or penetration” to a receive a court order protecting that person, their family, household or someone providing them services from having contact with the perpetrator of the crime.

HB 1732 already passed the committee unanimously last month, but Hirschauer brought it back with an amendment. The version that passed previously allowed for family or household members of the victim to file the petition on their behalf.

Hirschauer’s amendment to her bill, which she presented to the committee Tuesday, requires a statement verifying that the victim consented to the petition for it to be filed this way. It also advanced to the House floor in a unanimous 17-0 vote.

Senate Bill 2277, which appeared before the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday, would also make civil no contact orders filed against those convicted of criminal sexual assault permanent instead of lasting 2 years. That measure was also passed committee unanimously.

Russia: Law prohibiting migrants living with HIV from staying in the country does not just legalise discrimination, it also endangers their lives

“You have HIV, you have to leave”

Automated Google translation – For original article in Russian, please scroll down

Russia still has a law prohibiting HIV-infected migrants from staying in the country. This norm does not just legalise discrimination – it puts people in mortal danger who could receive treatment and live a normal life.

In the SIZO “Kresty” a “feeding trough” was opened – a hole through which food is passed to the arrested. A woman looked through the window and shouted: “Ramis – who?”

Ramis went to the “trough”.

– Congratulations, you have HIV. Come on, sign. If you infect someone, imprisonment for up to three years.

The woman left, the trough closed. Ramis turned and looked at the inmates:

– What was it?

Ramis came to St. Petersburg from Kyrgyzstan, worked as a driver. Ten years ago, he came home from work late at night, fell asleep at the wheel and got into a traffic accident. Ramis could not compensate for the damage for the wrecked car.

“The company has disclaimed responsibility: I had to work eight hours, but it turned out thirteen,” Ramis says. – I was delayed because the car needed to be repaired. I could have left it [at the car service], but there was a product inside it, [so] I waited for the repair, took the product, and on the way back it happened.

Ramis spent five months in a pre-trial detention center, he was sentenced to two years in a penal colony. At home, the man has a wife and son.

All this time, Ramis did not receive antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, despite his positive HIV status. Migrants in Russia do not have the right to this treatment, and even more so in prisons there is no access to the necessary medicines. The man did not know anything about the disease, his cellmates had already told him something about the virus.

Ramis was released in 2013. Of the documents, he only had a certificate of release. He was stopped immediately on the way from the colony to St. Petersburg, detained and sent to the center for those who are awaiting deportation.

Ramis spent another six months there, during which he became ill and developed tuberculosis of the lymph nodes. The man was taken to the hospital and again confirmed to be HIV positive. After that, the deportation process accelerated: there was another trial, and the employees of the migration service took Ramis to the airport.

Ramis recalls that before the deportation he was directly told:

– As we enter the airport, you take off your mask, do not talk about the temperature or tuberculosis, otherwise you will be returned again, they will not be allowed on the plane.

– The doctor told me to return to my homeland, I had to start taking ARV therapy, otherwise I would not have cured tuberculosis. I had to take off my mask and say that everything is fine with me, ”Ramis says. – As soon as they took off, I got dizzy. This five-hour flight seemed like an eternity to me. Honestly, I thought I was going to die.

Come and get infected here

In Russia, there is a law according to which migrants with HIV are denied treatment and deported to their homeland. The norm appeared in the country in 1995 as a fight against the spread of the virus. Initially, the law was passed in an environment when HIV was not yet a widespread disease.

The authorities believed that the epidemic in Russia could be prevented by limiting the flow of people with HIV, says Daniil Kashnitsky, junior researcher at the Institute for Social Policy at the Higher School of Economics. But by the end of the nineties, HIV still spread throughout Russia, including through injecting drug use, because people shared syringes.

Daniel emphasizes that now in the countries from which migrants most often come to Russia – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova – the level of HIV prevalence is lower than in Russia.

– In Ukraine, it is slightly lower, and in other countries – significantly, four to five times. Today we are not talking about the fact that someone comes to Russia en masse with HIV, but rather the opposite: they come and get infected with HIV here, ” says Kashnitsky. – This is evidenced by the data of epidemiological surveillance among migrants who returned to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Again, this is not due to the fact that they have come to a country with a high prevalence of the disease, but because they have an increased risk of life.

Daniel considers a break with his family, a lack of help and older relatives to watch over those who left, as an increased risk of his life. As a result, migrants have more freedom to engage in sexual relations and may start using drugs.

“I lived without a wife for three years,” Ramis says. – Conducted, as they say, promiscuous sex. I got HIV through the bed.

You must pay back your debts first

When obtaining or renewing a patent, as well as a residence permit in Russia, people need to take an HIV test. The procedure usually takes place at migration centers. There is a large flow of people there, and if someone finds a virus, as a rule, no one advises him or explains anything. They just say, “You have HIV, you have to leave.”

“This news hits a man on the head like a sack,” says Kashnitsky. – In rural areas of Tajikistan, for example, the average salary is $ 100, which is enough only for food. To come to Russia and pay for a patent, people borrow money from relatives, friends, and banks. First, you have to repay these debts, and then only start working as a plus for yourself.

Migrants who came to Russia to work do not want to deceive the expectations of their relatives. In addition, HIV is a stigma, so migrants are the last to want to talk about the disease to their loved ones. Therefore, they hide their status and start working illegally, especially in Russia there is still the possibility of working in the gray zone.

Thus, the prohibition of migrants with HIV to stay in Russia has many negative consequences. A person who has been diagnosed with a virus is literally pushed into the illegal sphere. Not only does he not receive the necessary treatment, – being left without a patent and a residence permit, the migrant is not protected by the law in any way, at any moment he risks losing his job and salary, becomes especially vulnerable to the police: if he is stopped on the street, he will have to give a bribe.

Ilgiz decided to work in the gray zone. In 2019, he came to Moscow from Uzbekistan to work in his specialty. But it didn’t work out. Through a mobile application, Ilgiz met a young man who offered him to “work as an escort.”

– After he told me this, we had a fight, it even came to a fight. But I had to send home a serious amount, and it was impossible to achieve this with my earnings in Moscow.

Ilgiz went home and, as he says, “thought hard.” The apartment in which his parents lived was put up for auction for debts on utility bills. They were given sixty days to pay the fines.

The young man returned to Moscow and agreed to work.

– I deceived myself, reassured myself that it was temporary, that I would think of something and return back to normal life. But I went into this more and more. I started dating serious, big people. They asked for proof that I was healthy – every three months I was checked. And something suddenly told me that something was wrong with me.

The very bottom

At the state medical center, Ilgiz’s fears were confirmed. The doctor told him that he had a huge viral load and had HIV.

– I decided: I must kill myself. He worked out various options: jump off the floor, hang himself, get poisoned, throw himself under the car. But I realized that dead will bring more problems to my family than alive. It is very difficult to take a corpse from Russia home.

The young man was not provided with psychological support at the medical center, but the specialist immediately began to insist that Ilgiz provide his passport data, convincing him that he would not transfer them anywhere.

“I knew that as soon as I provided them, I would be deported. I was not afraid of being deported to my homeland, but the very reason – because of HIV – scared me. I didn’t want anyone to know about this, ”Ilgiz says. – I value my parents very much, I am afraid to shock them with such news – they may even abandon me. I have not received anything in this life, the most precious thing in it is my mom and dad, I cannot lose them.

Ilgiz did not disclose his personal data, did not tell his relatives about the disease and stayed to work in Russia. But he decided to lead a different way of life and tries not to return to the past.

In addition to difficulties with work, foreigners with HIV cannot receive education in Russia, even for a fee. Four years ago, Amir came from Uzbekistan to study dentistry in Tver. He was in his last year of college when he found out that he was ill.

Like Ilgiz, no one consulted Amir about the disease. Instead, doctors began to insist that he should be registered – as if then he would be able to receive therapy free of charge, like other foreigners.

– Of course, it was a hoax, – Amir is indignant. – Only after they took my data, they told me about the deportation. The state then was … the very bottom. What deportation? I cannot quit my studies, I have already studied to be a dentist for seven years. Plus, I belong to the MSM community (men who have sex with men. The term is adopted in organizations helping people with HIV. – Approx. TD ). Coming back would have ended very badly.

Amir learned of his status in January 2020. He still hasn’t told anyone about it. The young man just wanted to tell the guy about it, who most likely infected him. But they did not see each other for a year, and Amir could not find him and talk to him.

– In my homeland, everyone thinks that only sinners are sick with HIV. I myself was brought up with such convictions. They do not know that there is therapy, that those who are being treated are not contagious, everyone thinks that if you have HIV, you are doomed. But now I have been living for a year, and everything is in order.

It just needs to be done, and that’s it.

Migrants with HIV who remain illegally in Russia do not have access to routine healthcare. They can only rely on emergency medical assistance.

Due to the fact that migrants cannot take ARV therapy, their immunity decreases, the viral load grows, and complications begin. By the time they get to the hospital, they already need long-term treatment, which the Russian state is obliged to provide them.

But even access to emergency medicine can be difficult. In anticipation of deportation, Ramis spent several months in the temporary detention center for foreign citizens, for a long time he kept a temperature of forty degrees. He started treating tuberculosis only in Kyrgyzstan.

– I was in the hospital for four months. It was very bad without money. I was operated there: without anesthesia – “without shit” – they cut me.

Unfavorable discrimination

The Regional Expert Group on the Health of Migrants in the EECA region calculated that hospitalization and inpatient treatment of migrants with HIV costs Russia more than providing them with ARV therapy. Thus, the country spends more than 220 thousand rubles per person with an advanced HIV case in a hospital, and a course of an annual ARV therapy would cost about 85 thousand.

If Russia legalizes people with HIV, they will be able to return to their homeland, register with an AIDS center, receive treatment and continue working in Russia.

“We don’t even require today to set a budget for the treatment of migrants with HIV – it’s enough just to remove the rule on expulsion,” says Daniil Kashnitsky. – For some reason, doctors and officials believe that the abolition of deportation will necessarily lead to an increase in costs, but this is not so. Absolutely no one will suffer from this, and there will be many advantages. It just needs to be done, and that’s it.

Many countries abolished similar deportation rules 10-15 years ago. According to Daniil Kashnitsky, HIV is a pandemic and the closure of borders does not help the fight against the spread of the virus. The European Court of Human Rights demanded from Russia a complete refusal to discriminate against HIV-positive foreigners back in 2016, but during this time the legislation has not changed in any way.

In April, State Duma deputy Fedot Tumusov submitted to the Russian government a bill proposing to abolish the mandatory deportation of migrants with HIV if they receive ARV therapy. Denis Kamaldinov, chairman of the board of the non-profit organization Humanitarian Project, is confident that the initiative will improve the situation with the disease.

– The person who is on therapy will not transmit the virus to others. This will partly solve the problem of prevention, says Kamaldinov. – If labor migrants are in the country legally, then the country needs them. This means that it is important to verify all the mechanisms for legalizing these people, regardless of their HIV status.

According to Kamaldinov, if the countries where migrants come from agree to provide them with therapy, then it will be necessary to decide who will control the treatment. He believes that adherence to therapy should be monitored in the health care system, and not in the migration service.

– It is important to calculate the capacity of the health care system to monitor and accompany migrants, or to work out the mechanisms that are associated with the fact that a person provides analyzes for local health care.

Tumusov hoped that the initiative would be successful:

– At least if you look at things objectively.

But in mid-July, the government received a negative response to the bill. The response (available to the editorial office) specifies that there are no legal grounds for providing migrants with therapy at the expense of foreign states. Bans on the entry and residence of foreign citizens and stateless persons with HIV, according to the document, were established “in order to prevent the spread of HIV infection in the territory of the Russian Federation”. The only exceptions are people who have family members, children or parents who have citizenship or permanently reside in the territory of the Russian Federation.

Never ask for help

Traditionally, it is believed that HIV is spread only in certain groups: among homosexuals, injecting drug users. Their risk of infection is indeed higher, but, according to official data, the main route of transmission of the virus in Russia is through sex with heterosexual partners. Because of prejudice about the spread of the virus, people with HIV do not get tested, are unaware of their status, infect partners and exacerbate the pandemic. In 2019, 1,068,839 people were registered in Russia living with HIV.

According to Kashnitsky, there is no data that would indicate that HIV prevalence trends among migrants differ. Throughout the EECA region, the proportion of sexual transmission is increasing and the proportion of HIV transmission through injecting drug use is decreasing.

To combat the epidemic, every HIV-positive person must have access to ARV therapy. On average, over three months of treatment, the viral load decreases so much that a person cannot infect other people, even his sexual partner, with unprotected sex.

According to the research platform “To be precise,” only 44% of people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in Russia in 2019. This is due to underfunding of AIDS centers, outdated treatment protocols, as well as stigma around the disease – people are afraid to seek help. Someone is worried that acquaintances will find out that difficulties may arise at work; migrants also fear expulsion from the country.

“Migrants with HIV will never seek help,” Ramis says. – They know: they will be deported for life.

Visitors with HIV not only do not go to doctors, but also do not undergo official testing for the presence of the disease due to fear of expulsion. Therefore, there is no complete epidemiological picture of the number of HIV-positive migrants. According to official data, in 2019, 97 thousand Russians and only 2 thousand newcomers were diagnosed with HIV.

“Official testing data is the tip of the iceberg,” says Daniel. – We have no way of believing that HIV-positive migrants pose any risk for Russians.

***

All the heroes of this article have achieved zero viral load. Ilgiz, with the help of the foundation, contacted the doctor, who wrote out a treatment plan for him, and he himself buys the medicines at the pharmacy. Amir is receiving therapy at a non-profit organization. Both remain in Russia for the time being illegally. Ramis has been receiving medicines at the AIDS Center in Kyrgyzstan for six years.

“Deportation is wrong,” Ilgiz believes. – Every person is wrong – you do not know what will happen tomorrow. So I didn’t know. I was sure, not one hundred, but a thousand percent that this would not happen to me, I protected myself, took pre-exposure and post-exposure therapy, passed tests. But I got sick anyway. But the main thing is that I know about my status and I am undergoing treatment.

Ramis did not see his wife and son for two years after returning to his homeland – he communicated with them only by phone. He believed that with so many problems and HIV-positive status, he could no longer have a family. Then Ramis started working in an organization that helps people with HIV and tuberculosis.

– Doctors from the center asked me why I didn’t invite my wife and son to my place. I laughed: “Why are you driving? I have so many problems. ” And then I decided to call them. For another two years, under various pretexts, I had sex with my wife with a condom. But then I realized that with therapy I could have a healthy child and not infect my wife. Our daughter is eight months old.


«У вас ВИЧ, вы должны уехать»

В России до сих пор действует закон, запрещающий находиться на территории страны мигрантам с ВИЧ-инфекцией. Эта норма не просто легализует дискриминацию — она подвергает смертельной опасности людей, которые могли бы получать лечение и жить самой обычной жизнью

В СИЗО «Кресты» открылась «кормушка» — отверстие, через которое арестованным передают еду. В окошко заглянула женщина и крикнула: «Рамис — кто?»

Рамис подошел к «кормушке».

— Поздравляю, у вас ВИЧ. Давайте, расписывайтесь. Если кого-то заразите, лишение свободы до трех лет.

Женщина ушла, кормушка закрылась. Рамис повернулся, посмотрел на сокамерников:

— Че это было-то?

Рамис приехал в Санкт-Петербург из Кыргызстана, работал водителем. Десять лет назад он поздно ночью возвращался с работы, уснул за рулем и попал в дорожно-транспортное происшествие. Возместить ущерб за разбитую машину Рамис не смог.

— Компания сняла с себя ответственность: я должен был работать восемь часов, а вышло тринадцать, — говорит Рамис. — Я задержался из-за того, что машину нужно было ремонтировать. Я мог бы ее оставить [в автосервисе], но внутри нее был товар, [поэтому] я дождался ремонта, отвез товар, и по пути назад это случилось.

Пять месяцев Рамис провел в СИЗО, его приговорили к двум годам колонии-поселения. На родине у мужчины остались жена и сын.

Все это время Рамис не получал антиретровирусную (АРВ) терапию, несмотря на положительный ВИЧ-статус. У мигрантов в России нет права на это лечение, а в тюрьмах тем более нет доступа к необходимым медикаментам. О заболевании мужчина ничего не знал, что-то о вирусе рассказали ему уже сокамерники.

Рамис вышел на свободу в 2013 году. Из документов у него была только справка об освобождении. Его остановили сразу по пути из колонии в Санкт-Петербург, задержали и отправили в центр для тех, кого ждет депортация.

Там Рамис провел еще шесть месяцев, во время которых ему стало плохо, развился туберкулез лимфатических узлов. Мужчину отвезли в больницу и снова подтвердили, что у него ВИЧ. После этого процесс депортации ускорился: прошел еще один суд, и сотрудники миграционной службы доставили Рамиса в аэропорт.

Рамис вспоминает, что перед депортацией ему прямо сказали:

— Как в аэропорт зайдем, ты сними маску, не говори про температуру или туберкулез, а то тебя опять вернут, в самолет не пустят.

— Мне врач велела вернуться на родину, нужно было начать принимать АРВ-терапию, иначе я не вылечил бы туберкулез. Пришлось мне маску снять и сказать, что у меня все хорошо, — говорит Рамис. — Как только взлетели, у меня головокружение началось. Этот пятичасовой перелет мне показался вечностью. Честно скажу, я думал, что сдохну.

Приезжают и здесь заражаются

В России действует закон, по которому мигрантам с ВИЧ отказывают в лечении и депортируют их на родину. Норма появилась в стране в 1995 году в качестве борьбы с распространением вируса. Изначально закон принимали в условиях, когда ВИЧ еще не был повсеместным заболеванием.

Власти считали, что эпидемию в России можно предотвратить, если ограничить поток людей с ВИЧ, рассказывает младший научный сотрудник Института социальной политики НИУ ВШЭ Даниил Кашницкий. Но уже к концу девяностых ВИЧ все равно распространился по всей России, в том числе из-за употребления инъекционных наркотиков, потому что люди пользовались общими шприцами.

Даниил подчеркивает, что сейчас в странах, откуда чаще всего приезжают мигранты в Россию, — Узбекистане, Таджикистане, Украине, Кыргызстане и Молдове — уровень распространения ВИЧ ниже, чем в России.

— На Украине немного ниже, а в остальных странах — значительно, в четыре-пять раз. Сегодня речь не идет о том, что кто-то в Россию приезжает массово с ВИЧ, а, скорее, наоборот: они приезжают и здесь заражаются ВИЧ-инфекцией, — говорит Кашницкий. — Об этом свидетельствуют данные эпидемиологического надзора среди мигрантов, вернувшихся в Узбекистан и Таджикистан. И опять же это происходит не из-за того, что они приехали в страну с высокой распространенностью заболевания, а потому, что у них повышенный риск жизни.

К повышенному риску жизни Даниил относит разрыв с семьей, отсутствие помощи и старших родственников, которые бы следили за уехавшими. В результате мигранты свободнее вступают в сексуальные отношения, могут начать употреблять наркотики.

— Я без жены три года жил, — рассказывает Рамис. — Вел, как это говорится, беспорядочные половые связи. Через постель у меня появился ВИЧ.

Сначала ты должен вернуть долги

При получении или продлении патента, а также вида на жительство в России людям необходимо сдать тест на ВИЧ. Процедура обычно проходит в миграционных центрах. Там большой поток людей, и если у кого-то находят вирус, его, как правило, никто не консультирует и ничего не объясняет. Просто говорят: «У вас ВИЧ, вы должны уехать».

— Эта новость как мешком ударяет человека по голове, — говорит Кашницкий. — В сельской местности Таджикистана, например, средняя зарплата — 100 долларов, ее хватает только на еду. Люди, чтобы приехать в Россию и оплатить патент, одалживают деньги у родных, друзей, в банках. Сначала ты должен вернуть эти долги, а потом уже только начать работать в плюс для себя.

Мигранты, приехавшие в Россию на заработки, не хотят обманывать ожидания родных. Кроме того, ВИЧ — это стигма, поэтому мигранты в последнюю очередь хотят рассказывать о заболевании своим близким. Поэтому они скрывают свой статус и начинают работать нелегально, тем более в России до сих пор сохраняется возможность работы в серой зоне.

Таким образом, запрет мигрантам с ВИЧ находиться в России имеет множество негативных последствий. Человека, у которого выявили вирус, буквально выталкивают в нелегальную сферу. Он не только не получает необходимого лечения, — оставаясь без патента и вида на жительство, мигрант никак не защищен законом, в любой момент рискует лишиться работы и зарплаты, становится особенно уязвимым перед полицией: если остановят на улице, придется давать взятку.

Работать в серой зоне решил Ильгиз. Он в 2019 году приехал в Москву из Узбекистана работать по специальности. Но не вышло. Через мобильное приложение Ильгиз познакомился с молодым человеком, который предложил ему «работать эскортом».

— После того как он это мне сказал, мы с ним поругались, дошло даже до драки. Но мне нужно было отправить домой серьезную сумму, а моими заработками в Москве этого добиться было невозможно.

Ильгиз уехал домой и, как он говорит, «подумал хорошенько». Квартиру, в которой жили его родители, выставили на аукцион за долги по коммунальным счетам. Им дали шестьдесят дней, чтобы оплатить штрафы.

Молодой человек вернулся в Москву и согласился на работу.

— Я обманывал себя, успокаивал, что это временно, что я что-то придумаю и вернусь обратно к нормальной жизни. Но я уходил в это все сильнее. Я начал встречаться с серьезными, большими людьми. Они просили доказательства, что я здоров, — каждые три месяца я проверялся. И что-то мне вдруг подсказало, что со мной что-то не так.

Самое дно

В государственном медицинском центре опасения Ильгиза подтвердились. Врач сказал ему, что у него огромная вирусная нагрузка и он болен ВИЧ.

— Я решил: надо убить себя. Прорабатывал разные варианты: спрыгнуть с этажа, повеситься, отравиться, броситься под машину. Но я понял, что мертвый принесу своей семье больше проблем, чем живой. Вывезти труп из России на родину очень сложно.

Психологической поддержки в медцентре молодому человеку не оказали, но специалист сразу начал настаивать на том, чтобы Ильгиз предоставил свои паспортные данные, убеждая, что никуда не будет их передавать.

— Я знал, что, как только предоставлю их, меня депортируют. Я не боялся выдворения на родину, но сам повод — из-за ВИЧ — меня пугал. Я не хотел, чтобы об этом кто-то узнал, — говорит Ильгиз. — Я очень дорожу родителями, такими новостями я боюсь их шокировать — они могут даже отказаться от меня. Я в этой жизни ничего не получил, самое дорогое в ней — мои мама и папа, их я не могу потерять.

Ильгиз не раскрыл свои личные данные, не рассказал о заболевании родным и остался работать в России. Но решил вести другой образ жизни и старается не возвращаться к прошлому.

Помимо трудностей с работой, иностранцы с ВИЧ не могут в России получать образование, даже платно. Четыре года назад учиться на стоматолога в Тверь из Узбекистана приехал Амир. Он был на последнем курсе института, когда узнал, что болен.

Так же как и Ильгиза, Амира никто не проконсультировал о заболевании. Вместо этого врачи стали настаивать, что ему надо встать на учет — якобы тогда он сможет бесплатно получать терапию, как и другие иностранцы.

— Конечно, это было обманом, — возмущается Амир. — Только после того, как они забрали мои данные, мне сказали о депортации. Состояние тогда было… самое дно. Какая депортация? Я не могу бросить учебу, я семь лет уже проучился на стоматолога. Плюс я отношусь к сообществу МСМ (мужчины, занимающиеся сексом с мужчинами. Термин принят в организациях, помогающих людям с ВИЧ. — Прим. ТД). Возвращение обратно закончилось бы очень плохо.

Амир узнал о своем статусе в январе 2020 года. Он до сих пор об этом никому не сказал. Молодой человек только хотел рассказать об этом парню, который, скорее всего, его заразил. Но они не виделись год, и Амир не смог его найти и поговорить с ним.

— На моей родине все считают, что ВИЧ болеют только грешники. Я сам был воспитан в таких убеждениях. Там не знают, что есть терапия, что те, кто лечится, не заразны, все думают, что если у тебя ВИЧ, то ты обречен. Но вот я уже год живу, и все в порядке.

Это просто надо сделать, и все

У мигрантов с ВИЧ, которые остаются нелегально в России, нет доступа к плановой медицине. Они могут рассчитывать только на экстренную помощь врачей.

Из-за того что мигранты не могут принимать АРВ-терапию, их иммунитет снижается, вирусная нагрузка растет, начинаются осложнения. К тому моменту, когда они попадают в больницу, им уже требуется длительное лечение, которое российское государство им обязано предоставить.

Но даже с доступом к экстренной медицине могут возникнуть трудности. В ожидании депортации Рамис провел в центре временного содержания иностранных граждан несколько месяцев, долгое время у него держалась температура сорок градусов. Лечить туберкулез он начал только в Кыргызстане.

— Четыре месяца я был в больнице. Без денег было очень плохо. Мне операцию там делали: без наркоза — «без ни хрена» — они меня резали.

Невыгодная дискриминация

В Региональной экспертной группе по здоровью мигрантов в регионе ВЕЦА подсчитали, что госпитализация и стационарное лечение мигрантов с ВИЧ обходятся России дороже, чем их обеспечение АРВ-терапией. Так, страна тратит больше 220 тысяч рублей на одного человека с запущенным случаем ВИЧ в больнице, а курс годовой АРВ-терапии стоил бы около 85 тысяч.

Если Россия легализует людей с ВИЧ, они смогут вернуться на родину, встать на учет в СПИД-центре, получить лечение и продолжить работать в России.

— Мы даже не требуем сегодня закладывать бюджет на лечение мигрантов с ВИЧ — достаточно просто убрать норму о выдворении, — говорит Даниил Кашницкий. — Врачи, чиновники почему-то считают, что отмена депортации обязательно повлечет за собой рост расходов, но это не так. От этого абсолютно никто не пострадает, а плюсов будет много. Это просто надо сделать, и все.

Многие страны отменили схожие нормы о депортации 10—15 лет назад. По словам Даниила Кашницкого, ВИЧ — это пандемия и закрытие границ не помогает борьбе с распространением вируса. Европейский суд по правам человека требовал от России полного отказа от дискриминации ВИЧ-положительных иностранцев еще в 2016 году, но за это время законодательство никак не изменилось.

В апреле депутат Государственной Думы Федот Тумусов направил на рассмотрение правительства России законопроект, предлагающий отменить обязательную депортацию мигрантов с ВИЧ, если они получают АРВ-терапию. Председатель правления некоммерческой организации «Гуманитарный проект» Денис Камалдинов уверен, что инициатива улучшит ситуацию с заболеваемостью.

— Человек, который принимает терапию, не будет передавать вирус другим. Отчасти это решит проблему профилактики, — говорит Камалдинов. — Если трудовые мигранты находятся в стране легально, значит они нужны стране. Значит, важно верифицировать все механизмы легализации этих людей вне зависимости от ВИЧ-статуса.

По мнению Камалдинова, если страны, откуда мигранты приезжают, согласятся обеспечивать их терапией, дальше нужно будет решить, кто станет контролировать лечение. Он считает, что за приверженностью к терапии должны следить в системе здравоохранения, а не в миграционной службе.

— Важно рассчитать возможности системы здравоохранения по наблюдению и сопровождению мигрантов либо отработать механизмы, которые связаны с тем, что человек предоставляет анализы для местного здравоохранения.

Тумусов рассчитывал, что инициатива будет успешна:

— По крайней мере, если смотреть на вещи объективно.

Но в середине июля от правительства пришел отрицательный отзыв на законопроект. В отзыве (есть в распоряжении редакции) уточняется, что нет правовых оснований для обеспечения мигрантов терапией за счет средств иностранных государств. Запреты на въезд и проживание иностранных граждан и лиц без гражданства с ВИЧ, согласно документу, установлены «в целях предупреждения распространения ВИЧ-инфекции на территории Российской Федерации». Исключение составляют только люди, у которых есть члены семьи, дети или родители, имеющие гражданство или постоянно проживающие на территории РФ.

Никогда не обратятся за помощью

Традиционно считается, что ВИЧ распространен лишь в определенных группах: среди гомосексуалов, инъекционных наркопотребителей. Риск заражения у них действительно выше, но, согласно официальным данным, основной путь передачи вируса в России — секс гетеросексуальных партнеров. Из-за предубеждений о распространении вируса люди с ВИЧ не сдают анализы, не знают о своем статусе, заражают партнеров и усугубляют пандемию. В 2019 году в России было зарегистрировано 1 068 839 человек, живущих с ВИЧ-инфекцией.

По словам Кашницкого, нет данных, которые бы говорили, что среди мигрантов тенденции распространения ВИЧ отличаются. По всему региону ВЕЦА растет доля сексуального пути передачи и сокращается доля передачи ВИЧ при употреблении инъекционных наркотиков.

Для борьбы с эпидемией доступ к АРВ-терапии должен быть у каждого ВИЧ-положительного человека. В среднем за три месяца лечения вирусная нагрузка снижается настолько, что человек не может заразить других людей, даже своего полового партнера при незащищенном сексе.

Согласно данным исследовательской платформы «Если быть точным», антиретровирусную терапию в России в 2019 году получали только 44% людей, живущих с ВИЧ. Это связано с недофинансированием центров СПИДа, с устаревшими протоколами лечения, а также со стигмой вокруг заболевания — люди боятся обращаться за помощью. Кто-то переживает, что узнают знакомые, что могут возникнуть трудности на работе; мигранты опасаются еще и выдворения из страны.

— Мигранты с ВИЧ никогда не обратятся за помощью, — говорит Рамис. — Они ведь знают: им светит пожизненная депортация.

Приезжие с ВИЧ не только не обращаются к врачам, но и не проходят официальное тестирование на наличие заболевания из-за страха выдворения. Поэтому полной эпидемиологической картины по количеству ВИЧ-положительных мигрантов нет. По официальным данным, в 2019 году ВИЧ выявили у 97 тысяч россиян и всего у 2 тысяч приезжих.

— Данные официального тестирования — это верхушка айсберга, — уточняет Даниил. — У нас нет возможности полагать, что ВИЧ-положительные мигранты представляют хоть какой-либо риск для россиян.

***

Нулевой вирусной нагрузки добились все герои этой статьи. Ильгиз с помощью фонда связался с врачом, который расписал ему план лечения, и сам покупает лекарства в аптеке. Амир получает терапию в некоммерческой организации. Оба пока что остаются в России нелегально. Рамис уже шесть лет получает лекарства в СПИД-центре Кыргызстана.

— Депортация — это неправильно, — считает Ильгиз. — Каждый человек ошибается — вы же не знаете, что будет завтра. Вот и я не знал. Я был уверен не на сто, а на тысячу процентов, что со мной этого не произойдет, я предохранялся, принимал доконтактную и постконтактную терапию, сдавал анализы. Но все равно заболел. Но главное — я знаю о своем статусе и прохожу лечение.

Рамис два года после возвращения на родину не виделся со своей женой и сыном — общался с ними лишь по телефону. Он считал, что с таким количеством проблем и ВИЧ-положительным статусом у него больше не может быть семьи. Потом Рамис начал работать в организации, которая помогает людям с ВИЧ и туберкулезом.

— Врачи из центра спрашивали меня, почему я не зову жену с сыном к себе. Я смеялся: «Вы че, гоните? У меня столько проблем». А потом решился их позвать. Еще два года я под разными предлогами занимался с женой сексом с презервативом. Но потом понял, что с терапией могу иметь здорового ребенка и не заражу жену. Нашей дочери восемь месяцев.

[Update]US: Missouri Governor signs bill that modernises HIV criminalisation laws

Missouri Updates HIV Laws Criminalizing Transmission For The First Time In Over 30 Years

For the first time since enacting HIV laws in the 1980s, Missouri will update its laws that make it a crime to expose a person to the virus. Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday signed a bill that reduces the charges a person faces for transmitting the virus.

Missouri joins a number of states that have passed such legislation this year. Legislatures around the country are moving to correct HIV laws that were based on false assumptions about how the virus is transmitted.

Advocacy groups and politicians in Missouri successfully lobbied for SB 53, a sweeping measure affecting police and prosecutors, to include changes to the state’s HIV laws after years of attempts to pass similar legislation. Public health professionals say laws criminalizing HIV have not reduced transmission of the virus.

Under the new law, prosecutors must prove someone “knowingly” exposed a person to the virus to obtain a felony conviction. The measure also reduces the minimum sentence from 10 years to 3 years, if the person contracts HIV. A previous law made it a felony crime in Missouri to “recklessly” expose another person to HIV, which is harder to defend in court.

Missouri’s updated law goes into effect on Aug. 28.

While the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition wants state lawmakers to eliminate laws against transmitting the virus, some advocates say the law lessening penalties is still a victory for the more than 13,000 people in Missouri who live with HIV.

“We still feel like it’s a really strong step in the right direction, to make sure that the laws are medically accurate and are charging people at an appropriate level,” said Mallory Rusch, executive director for Empower Missouri, an advocacy group within the HIV Justice Coalition that lobbied for the bill’s passage.

Advocates argued the old law was outdated, since modern medication can reduce people’s viral load to undetectable levels. People who are consistently on HIV treatment for at least six months cannot transmit HIV to others.

The former law treated all HIV-positive people as if they were a public health risk, Rusch said. The new law updates language to correct misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted. HIV transmission doesn’t occur through saliva or touching. It’s very rarely transmitted through biting or oral sex.

“[The old laws] were based on faulty assumptions about science, and it’s no fault of the legislature at the time, it’s just all they knew,” said Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, who filed the bill in the House. “Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when HIV entered the public consciousness, the legislators at the time first thought it was a death sentence.”

Public health professionals say they still feel the consequences of faulty science and outdated laws.

“It put people living with HIV in a position to where, number one, they’re criminalized unfairly, but two propagated the stigma and the shame that still persists around people living with HIV,” said Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine.

Davis, who has treated people with HIV for more than a decade, said laws that penalized HIV transmission discouraged people from getting tested because if people didn’t know their HIV status, they couldn’t be charged.

But that also led to people forgoing necessary treatment.

“If people don’t see this big fear about being criminalized, they may be more willing to take a test to find out what their status is,” said Erise Williams Jr., CEO of Williams and Associates, a public health agency in St. Louis that has a robust HIV program.

Since 1990, more than 100 people in Missouri have been convicted of an HIV crime, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law.

The institute found Black men account for half of HIV crime arrests and convictions in the state, despite being only 5.5% of the state’s population.

In St. Charles County, a Black student at Lindenwood University made national headlines in 2015 when a judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of infecting one partner with HIV and endangering four others. An appeals court later ruled that Michael L. Johnson’s trial was “fundamentally unfair” and granted him parole after he had served five years.

Public health professionals say Johnson’s and other high-profile cases of alleged intentional HIV transmission have distorted the public’s view that this is a common occurrence and have instead undermined efforts to prevent infections.

That’s led lawmakers in Nevada, Illinois and Oregon to change their HIV laws this year, either adjusting punishments for transmission or expanding access to HIV medication.

Illinois’ legislature recently passed a bill to completely decriminalize HIV, which would make it only the second state to do so, after Texas. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has yet to sign the bill into law.

Missouri expands access to HIV preventive medication

Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature also passed a bill during the 2021 session to allow pharmacists to dispense HIV medication. Parson signed the bill into law last month, making Missouri the fourth state to do so.

Pharmacists must be trained by a doctor before they can give someone post-exposure prophylaxis.

If the medication is started within 72 hours of an HIV exposure, it can greatly decrease chances of contracting the virus. But getting the pill during that crucial window can be difficult in rural areas with few health care providers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 13 mostly rural counties in Missouri are at risk for an HIV outbreak.

Rep. Christofanelli co-sponsored the bill to make the drug more accessible. Medicaid and Medicare both cover PEP.

“I think public health issues cross party boundaries,” he said. “HIV is something that’s affecting this entire state whether you live in a rural area community or an urban or suburban community, like mine. And Missouri has continued to come up on national news stories for the prevalence of spread of HIV across our state.”


Published in December in Empower Missouri

Lawmakers Pass Legislation To Update Missouri’s Outdated HIV Criminalization Laws

After decades on the books, Missouri lawmakers have finally passed legislation to update the criminal codes dealing with the prosecution of people living with HIV.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Holly Rehder (R-27) and Representative Phil Christofanelli (R-105), rewrites Missouri’s HIV-specific criminal laws. The bill would lower the penalties under the HIV exposure statute and raise the level of intent a prosecutor would need to prove in order to convict someone of a felony. The legislation also updates the law to be consistent with medical science by limiting the law to only cover activities that have been scientifically shown to create a substantial risk of transmission. Further, the measure would combat the stigma associated with HIV by ending the singling out of HIV and instead  making the law apply to all “serious non-airborne infectious or communicable diseases.”

Missouri’s current law allows prosecutors to charge an HIV-positive person with a felony based on whether she or he can prove they disclosed their HIV status to their sexual partner. If someone knows they are living with HIV but does not disclose their status before engaging in certain activities considered to be “exposure”— some of which don’t carry any risk of transmission — they can be charged with a class A felony (punishable by 15-30 years in prison) if transmission occurs and with a class B felony (punishable by five to fifteen years in prison), even if no HIV transmission actually occurs. And several Missouri laws punish people living with HIV at a higher level simply because of their HIV status.

Between 1990 and 2019, at least 593 people have been arrested in Missouri for an HIV/hepatitis crime, including 318 who were convicted for those crimes. Missouri has had one arrest for an HIV crime for every 60 people living with HIV in Missouri.

The Missouri HIV Justice Coalition, Empower Missouri, not-for-profits focusing on health care and better public policy, and long-term HIV survivors have supported rewriting the HIV criminalization laws for the last five years.

Empower Missouri’s Executive Director Mallory Rusch said, “We are thankful that Missouri lawmakers have finally taken a step in the right direction and have updated the state’s outdated and medically inaccurate HIV criminalization laws. Empower Missouri believes the updated law will reduce stigma associated with HIV and, in turn, encourage more people to get proper testing and treatment..”

Empower Missouri is pleased with the passage of the legislation, but will also continue to advocate for additional changes to the criminal code in future sessions, including removing the sentencing enhancement for people living with HIV who are charged with prostitution.

“Many people do not know that there have been significant strides in the prevention, testing, and treatment of HIV,” said Rusch. “HIV is often treatable with one pill a day, and people living with HIV have the same life expectancy as the average person with proper treatment. Updating these laws to reflect medical advances is critical to basic justice and fairness to all Missourians.”

In 2019, Missouri had roughly 13,000 people living with HIV, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Many are in the south central part of the state, includingBates, Cedar, St. Francois, Hickory, Wayne, Ozark, Wright, Iron, Madison, Reynolds, Ripley, Crawford and Washington counties.

Empower Missouri staffs the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition and welcomes participation by people living with HIV. Details may be found at: https://empowermissouri.org/hiv-justice-coalition/.


Published on Dec 3, 2020 in the Missouri Times

Lawmakers promote legislation to ‘decriminalize HIV’ on World AIDS Day

Rep. Phil Christofanelli and incoming Sens. Holly Rehder and Greg Razer pre-filed legislation to change Missouri’s laws regarding people with HIV on World AIDS Day Tuesday.

“It’s special that we get to file our bills on this day,” Rehder told The Missouri Times. “We’ve had so many advancements in HIV treatment since the 80s when our statutes were put in place, and medical professionals, researchers, and scientists know so much more about it now than they did. Living with HIV is not a death sentence any longer, and it’s incredibly important to remove the stigma.”

The legislators joined a virtual press conference with multiple advocacy groups Tuesday, where Rehder outlined her planned legislation. She said she will sponsor a “harm reduction package” which includes establishing a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), ensures safe syringe access, and modernizes the state’s HIV regulations. The provisions were staples of her tenure in the House.

Current Missouri statute mandates an individual who is knowingly infected with HIV not act in a “reckless” way that could expose another person to the disease without his or her knowledge or consent. Violating the statute could result in a Class A or B felony, depending on if another individual contracted HIV.

The way the statute is written deters people from finding out his or her status and seeking appropriate treatment, advocates say. The statute also suggests an HIV diagnosis is equivalent to a death sentence, but Rehder said modern medicine tells a different story.

The bill would update the language to reflect more recent research on the disease since the law was enacted in the 1980s, including removing spitting from the list of “reckless” actions.

Christofanelli said he would sponsor two HIV-related bills in the lower chamber next year, including a similar modernization provision.

“I think that we need to let people know that while science has not yet found a way to cure HIV, we certainly have the tools at our disposal to end HIV if we take the correct actions,” Christofanelli said. “To that end, I intend to file two pieces of legislation in the upcoming session in order to put Missouri at the forefront of preventing the spread of HIV in our communities and helping those afflicted with the disease.”

The other piece would concern Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP), relatively new treatments for the disease. The bill would allow pharmacists to screen patients and prescribe the treatment over-the-counter. Now, patients must make a doctor’s appointment to receive a prescription for PREP which could cause them to receive it past the critical three-day exposure period. The bill would also allow patients to receive a 30-day prescription of PEP after receiving a negative test for HIV. He said the use of the treatments greatly reduced the risk of contracting HIV.

Razer said he would be handling the bill on the Senate side.

“Our state’s HIV-specific law was originally passed in the late ’80s, when our cultural understanding of HIV was informed by fear and stigma,” Missouri HIV Justice Organizer Molly Pearson said. “Thanks to advances in modern medicine, people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives without transmitting the virus. Using criminalization as a public health intervention simply does not work, and it upholds the stigma and fear of HIV that got us here in the first place.”

World AIDS Day has been observed on Dec. 1 every year since 1988. The day was set aside to educate the public about the disease and examine the future of the fight against it.

Tuesday was also the first day of pre-filing for the Missouri legislature.

WATCH HIV Justice Live! (Ep 4): How to advocate for prosecutorial guidance for HIV-related cases

The fourth episode of HIV Justice Network’s web show, HIV Justice Live! that streamed live on July 14 is now available to watch on YouTube.  The episode, which our colleagues at the HIV Legal Network called a master class in advocacy” discussed the newly launched UNDP’s Guidance for Prosecutors on HIV-related criminal cases and provided insights into how to work with prosecutorial authorities so that they have a clear understanding of how to – and more importantly how not to – use HIV criminalisation laws.

Guidance like this is a good example of a ‘harm reduction’ approach if you can’t change or repeal HIV criminalisation laws, and adopting such guidance can result in fewer miscarriages of justice, as well as improve the criminal legal system’s understand of, and approach to, people living with HIV.  Once implemented it’s also a good way of holding prosecutors to account.

The Guidance was developed for UNDP by our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE colleagues, Richard Elliott and Cécile Kazatchkine of the HIV Legal Network. The process, which took two years, involved multiple consultations. Several other colleagues, including HJN’s Executive Director Edwin J Bernard, HJN Supervisory Board member Lisa Power, and HJN Global Advisory Panel member Edwin Cameron were part of the Project Advisory Committee.

The episode, hosted by Edwin J Bernard and featuring UNDP’s Kene Esom alongside Lisa Power and Richard Elliott, also included a special edit of HJN’s documentary, Doing HIV Justice, which demystifies the process of how civil society worked with the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales to create the world’s first policy and guidance for prosecuting the reckless or intentional transmission of sexual infection.

The full-length, 30-minute version of this documentary is now available as part of a YouTube playlist that also features two other educational and informative videos: an introduction by the CPS’s Arwel Jones with some useful tips about how to engage with prosecutors, and a workshop that took place after the world premiere screening in Berlin, featuring Lisa Power and Catherine Murphy (who helped advocate for the implementation of guidance in England & Wales, and Scotland, respectively) as well as former UNAIDS Senior Human Rights and Law Adviser, Susan Timberlake.

Russia: Migrants workers to undergo HIV testing every 3 months

Labor migrants in Russia will be obliged to take a PCR test every 72 hours and tests for HIV and other infectious diseases every three months

Automatic google translation – For original article in Russian, please scroll down

On July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on state fingerprint registration of visa-free foreign citizens in Russia.

According to the law, visa-free foreigners will now have to undergo fingerprinting, photographing and medical examination without fail within 90 calendar days from the date of entry. They will be given a corresponding document.

And labor migrants will have to go through all these procedures within 30 days. They will be required to confirm the absence of HIV infection, infectious diseases that pose a danger to others, as well as drug addiction.

Moreover, if they are diagnosed with drug addiction or HIV infection, then “a decision will be made about the undesirability of their stay in Russia.” Failure to comply with this law threatens to reduce the length of stay of foreigners in Russia.

The law will come into force in December.

Human rights activist Valentina Chupik explained that according to this law, migrants will have to take PCR tests to detect coronavirus every 72 hours, as well as do tests for other infectious diseases every three months.

“I suppose that after this story not a single legal migrant will remain in Russia. For example, I will not be able to spend 1950 rubles every three days on a PCR test. […] As far as I understand, the one who signed these laws did not even read them. Well, he hasn’t read them for years. And the one who made these laws has no idea about Russian legislation and about migration statistics, ”said the human rights activist.

She sent a letter to the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev asking for help in this situation and urged migrants from other countries to also appeal to their authorities. She believes that in this way the Russian authorities “will pay attention to what they have done in the field of migration law and get down to business.”


Трудовых мигрантов в России обяжут сдавать ПЦР-тест каждые 72 часа и тесты на ВИЧ и другие инфекционные заболевания каждые три месяца

Президент России Владимир Путин 1 июля подписал федеральный закон о государственной дактилоскопической регистрации безвизовых иностранных граждан в России.

Согласно закону, безвизовые иностранцы теперь должны будут проходить дактилоскопическую регистрацию, фотографирование и медосмотр в обязательном порядке в течение 90 календарных дней со дня въезда. Им будет выдаваться соответствующий документ.

Президент России Владимир Путин 1 июля подписал федеральный закон о государственной дактилоскопической регистрации безвизовых иностранных граждан в России.

Согласно закону, безвизовые иностранцы теперь должны будут проходить дактилоскопическую регистрацию, фотографирование и медосмотр в обязательном порядке в течение 90 календарных дней со дня въезда. Им будет выдаваться соответствующий документ.

*Дактилоскопическая регистрация — сдача отпечатков пальцев.

А трудовые мигранты должны будут пройти все эти процедуры в течение 30 дней. Они будут обязаны подтвердить отсутствие ВИЧ-инфекции, инфекционных заболеваний, которые представляют опасность для окружающих, а также наркотической зависимости.

При этом, если у них выявят наркоманию или ВИЧ-инфекцию, то «будет приниматься решение о нежелательности их пребывания на территории России». Несоблюдение этого закона грозит сокращением срока пребывания иностранцев в России.

Закон вступит в силу уже в декабре.

Правозащитница Валентина Чупик пояснила, что согласно этому закону, мигранты будут должны сдавать ПЦР-тесты на выявление коронавируса каждые 72 часа, а также каждые три месяца делать тесты на другие инфекционные заболевания.

«Я так предполагаю, что после этой истории ни одного легального мигранта в России не останется. Я, например, не потяну тратить каждые три дня 1950 рублей на ПЦР-тест. […] Я так понимаю, что тот кто подписывал эти законы, их даже не читал. Ну он их уже много лет не читает. А тот, кто производил эти законы понятия не имеет о российском законодательстве и о статистике миграции», — заявила правозащитница.

Она направила письмо к президенту Узбекистана Шавкату Мирзиееву с просьбой о помощи в этой ситуации и призвала мигрантов из других стран также обратиться к своим властям. Она считает, что таким образом власти России «обратят внимание на то, что они понаделали в сфере миграционного права и займутся делом».

Russia: Migrants are forming a “hidden epidemic” because they are afraid to seek help

Why are migrants living with HIV being deported from Russia?

Automated translation – For article in Russian, please scroll down.

Russia is one of 19 countries that deport migrants living with HIV. Migrants, in turn, prefer not to return to their homeland and remain in the country illegally. For fear of being discovered, they do not seek medical attention until they feel very sick. Experts believe that in this way migrants not only risk their health, but also exacerbate the situation with HIV in the country, writes RIA Novosti.

Where it all started

In 1995, the Law on Preventing the Spread of HIV was passed, stating that migrants who have been diagnosed with HIV should be deported. In 2015, the law was amended: it is forbidden to expel from the country foreigners whose relatives are Russian citizens.

Despite the fact that it is possible to take a status test in Russia anonymously, migrants who want to obtain citizenship or a patent in order to work officially must provide the results of an HIV test. The data is automatically sent to Rospotrebnadzor, then the relevant commission makes a decision on the “undesirability of stay”, after which the foreign citizen must leave the country within one month.

In this regard, the number of migrants who have decided to “lay low” in order not to return to their homeland is growing: many have jobs here, a stable income, families and relatives.

Hidden epidemic 

In February, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova announced that there were 1.1 million people living with HIV in Russia. According to Rospotrebnadzor, migrants, who make up almost 2 million, account for more than 39,000 cases. Most of them are citizens of Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. These are only official statistics. According to Vadim Pokrovsky, with existing methods of fighting infection, the number of people living with HIV by 2030 could double.

Experts believe that migrants are forming a “hidden epidemic”: many are in the country illegally, do not accept treatment, because they are afraid to seek help. They try not to leave Russia, because they will not be allowed back because of their status.

According to Vadim Pokrovsky, under current methods of combating infection the number of people living with HIV by 2030 can grow by half.

Expert opinion

Daniil Kashnitsky, Academic Relations Coordinator of the Regional Expert Group on Migrant Health, believes that the law passed in 1995 is long out of date. Over the past few decades, drugs have been developed that allow people living with HIV to live full lives, have an undetectable viral load and have healthy babies. And because of the existing discrimination, migrants “hide” and do not have access to quality medicine. Many of them are ready to purchase treatment at their own expense, but due to being on the “unwanted list”, they cannot legally stay in Russia.

Experts from the Regional Expert Group on Migrant Health are confident that this problem can be solved by refusing deportation and reaching certain agreements with the CIS countries.


Почему из России депортируют мигрантов, живущих с ВИЧ?

Россия является одной из 19 стран, которые депортируют мигрантов, живущих с ВИЧ. Мигранты, в свою очередь, предпочитают не возвращаться на родину и остаются в стране нелегально. Из страха быть обнаруженными они не обращаются за медицинской помощью до тех пор, пока не станет совсем плохо. Специалисты считают, что таким образом мигранты не только рискуют своим здоровьем, но и усугубляют ситуацию с ВИЧ в стране, пишет РИА Новости.

Откуда все началось

В 1995 году был принят закон «О предупреждении распространения ВИЧ», сообщающий, что мигранты, у которых выявили ВИЧ, должны быть депортированы. В 2015 году закон был скорректирован: запрещено высылать из страны иностранцев, у которых родственники являются гражданами России.

Несмотря на то, что пройти тест на наличие статуса в России можно анонимно, мигранты, которые хотят получить гражданство или патент, чтобы работать официально, должны предоставить результаты анализа на ВИЧ. Данные автоматически попадают в Роспотребнадзор, затем соответствующая комиссия принимает решение о «нежелательности пребывания», после чего иностранный гражданин должен покинуть страну в течение одного месяца.

В связи с этим растет количество мигрантов, которые решили «залечь на дно», чтобы не возвращаться на родину: у многих здесь работа, стабильный доход, семьи и родственники.

Скрытая эпидемия 

В феврале вице-премьер РФ Татьяна Голикова сообщила о том, что в России зафиксировано 1,1 млн людей, живущих с ВИЧ. По данным Роспотребнадзора, на мигрантов, которые составляют почти 2 млн, приходится более 39 000 случаев. Большую часть составляют граждане Таджикистана, Украины и Узбекистана. Это только официальная статистика. По словам Вадима Покровского, при существующих методах борьбы с инфекцией количество людей, живущих с ВИЧ, к 2030 году может вырасти вдвое.

Эксперты считают, что мигранты формируют «скрытую эпидемию»: многие находятся в стране нелегально, не принимают лечение, так как боятся обратиться за помощью. Они стараются не выезжать из России, потому что обратно их не пустят из-за статуса.

По словам Вадима Покровского, при существующих методах борьбы с инфекцией количество людей, живущих с ВИЧ, к 2030 году может вырасти вдвое.

Мнение экспертов

Даниил Кашницкий, координатор по академическим связям Региональной экспертной группы по здоровью мигрантов, считает, что закон, принятый в 1995 году уже давно устарел. За последние несколько десятилетий разработаны препараты, которые позволяют людям, живущим с ВИЧ, жить полноценной жизнью, иметь неопределяемую вирусную нагрузку и рожать здоровых детей. А из-за существующей дискриминации мигранты «прячутся» и не имеют доступа к качественной медицине. Многие из них готовы приобретать лечение за свой счет, но из-за попадания в «нежелательный список», они не могут легально находиться в России.

Специалисты из Региональной экспертной группы по здоровью мигрантов уверены, что эту проблему можно решить, отказавшись от депортации, и достигнув определенных договоренностей со странами СНГ.

A landmark week for HIV criminalisation

This past week has seen a huge amount of activity related to HIV and, specifically, HIV criminalisation.

Illinois is about to become only the second US state ever to completely repeal its HIV criminalisation law which has been on the books since 1989.

Meanwhile, Nevada has modernised its HIV criminalisation law, and in Michigan a county prosecutor has ordered a review of all prosecutions brought under the state’s law before it was modernised in 2019.

All of these successes were celebrated at the HIV is not a Crime Training Academy (HINAC4) that took place virtually last week and helped galvanise activists working for HIV, racial and gender justice across the US, even as there was disappointment that the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which took place at the same time, ended up adopting a joint Political Declaration that was lacking in global consensus, with both watered-down language on human rights and some key issues completely missing.

HIV criminalisation survivor Kerry Thomas, currently incarcerated in Idaho, speaking from prison at HINAC4. Although Kerry has been able to present by phone at previous international events, this is the first time anyone has been able to both see and hear Kerry.

Despite back and forth among the countries, with opposition from Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, and the Syrian Arab Republic to the final draft’s progressive language, such as naming ‘key populations’, the Declaration did include language on HIV criminalisation as part of the 10-10-10 targets on societal enablers calling for member states to end all inequalities faced by people living with HIV, key and other priority populations by 2025.

Specifically, the Declaration “express[es] deep concern about stigma, discrimination, violence, and restrictive and discriminatory laws and practices that target people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV – including for non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission of HIV…” and “commit[s] to eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV…by creating an enabling legal environment by reviewing and reforming, as needed, restrictive legal and policy frameworks including discriminatory laws and practices that create barriers or reinforce stigma and discrimination such as … laws related to HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission.”

Still, even as we celebrate some of these progressive commitments, much work needs to be done. Advocates and organisations have voiced their concerns that the watered-down Declaration may not fully commit countries to take action.

France: Blood donations to meet the same health safety requirements, regardless of one’s sexuality

Blood donation: The end of the distinction between gay and straight promised for 2022

Translated from French with Deepl.com – For original article, please scroll down

The French National Assembly has passed an amendment allowing gay & bisexual men to donate blood under the same conditions as heterosexual men. The measure is due to come into force in 2022.
Are we heading towards the end of discrimination? This Tuesday evening, the National Assembly voted on an amendment to the bioethics bill concerning blood donation. At the request of the government, parliamentarians lifted the abstinence period still required for men who have sex with men (MSM), whether gay or bisexual. According to our information, the reform will come into force on 1 January 2022.

“The criteria for selecting donors (…) may not be based on any difference in treatment, in particular with regard to the sex of the partner or partners with whom the donors have had a sexual relationship,” says the amendment to Article 7 bis of the bioethics bill. Currently, in order to pass the screening process at the French Blood Establishment (EFS), MSM must have previously respected a four-month period of abstinence, effectively excluding many of them from donating blood.

Blood donation and HIV (over)risk
The Minister of Health publicly welcomed the vote. “Giving blood will meet the same health safety requirements, regardless of one’s sexuality. Parliament has just voted in principle. I will align the donor selection criteria in the coming months,” he wrote on Twitter.

However, a year ago, Olivier Véran considered it “dangerous” to go through the law to put an end to this discrimination, considering that it “is really not the right tool”. At the time, the left and the right were defending an amendment to this effect. “There is a serological window, a few days during which a person can be contaminated without being detected (…). Statistically, there is an excess risk (among MSM), not because of sexuality but because of a practice,” the minister argued in July 2020, quoted by HuffPost.

Olivier Véran therefore pleaded for the reduction of the abstinence period to be carried out by regulation (i.e. by executive decree), so that it could be reinstated in the event of a problem: “If there were a situation, which would not even be linked to HIV, but which would oblige us to put in place emergency measures to protect recipients and donors, we would no longer be able to do so (otherwise).

A major difference
However, the new version voted by the Assembly contains a difference that changes everything. The amendment states that donor selection criteria may not be based on discrimination “not justified by the need to protect the donor or the recipient”. A possibility is left open to reconsider the donor selection criteria. “This wording is an open door to differential treatment. I have the feeling that the government wants to give pledges but cannot go all the way”, analysed for TÊTU the PS deputy Hervé Saulignac, who brought the initial amendment.

This year, it was not Olivier Véran who argued in the Assembly but Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State for Child Protection. “The Minister of Health had undertaken to present new elements. (…) The residual risk of HIV among blood donors has decreased considerably in recent years. Santé Publique France now estimates it at 1 in 11.6 million donations,” he said.

Following the British model, which will start next week, a new non-discriminatory questionnaire will be offered to donors. From 14 June in the UK, donation will be open to people who have had the same sexual partner for three months, who have not had a recent exposure to an STI or who are PrEP users. In France, “these changes can be implemented from the beginning of next year”, the Secretary of State promised. Contacted by TÊTU, the Ministry of Health gave a date: 1 January 2022.


Don du sang : la fin de la distinction entre gay et hétéro promise pour 2022

L’Assemblée nationale a voté un amendement autorisant les hommes gays et bis à donner leur sang dans les mêmes conditions que les hétéros. La mesure doit entrer en application en 2022.

Se dirige-t-on vers la fin d’une discrimination ? Ce mardi 8 juin au soir, l’Assemblée nationale a voté un amendement au projet de loi bioéthique concernant le don du sang. Sur demande du gouvernement, les parlementaires ont levé la durée d’abstinence toujours demandée aux hommes qui ont des relations sexuelles avec des hommes (HSH), qu’ils soient gays ou bis. Selon nos informations, la réforme entrera en vigueur le 1er janvier 2022.

“Les critères de sélection des donneurs (…) ne peuvent être fondés sur aucune différence de traitement, notamment en ce qui concerne le sexe du ou des partenaires avec lequel les donneurs auraient entretenus une relation sexuelle”, indique l’amendement à l’article 7 bis du projet de loi bioéthique. Actuellement, pour pouvoir passer la sélection opérée lors d’un rendez-vous à l’Établissement français du sang (EFS), les HSH doivent avoir respecté au préalable une période d’abstinence de quatre mois, excluant de fait bon nombre d’entre eux du don du sang.

Don du sang et (sur-)risque de VIH

Le ministre de la Santé s’est félicité publiquement du vote. “Donner son sang répondra aux mêmes impératifs de sécurité sanitaire, et ce quelle que soit sa sexualité. Le parlement vient d’en voter le principe. J’alignerai ainsi les critères de sélection des donneurs dans les prochains mois”, a-t-il écrit sur Twitter.

Pourtant il y a encore un an, Olivier Véran jugeait “dangereux” de passer par la loi pour mettre fin à cette discrimination, considérant que ce “n’est vraiment pas le bon outil”. À l’époque, la gauche défendait main dans la main avec la droite un amendement en ce sens. “Il y a une fenêtre sérologique, quelques jours pendant lesquels une personne peut être contaminée sans que l’on puisse le détecter (…). Statistiquement, il y a un sur-risque (chez les HSH), non pas en raison de la sexualité mais d’une pratique”, faisait valoir le ministre en juillet 2020, cité par le HuffPost.

Olivier Véran plaidait donc pour que la réduction du délai d’abstinence passe plutôt par voie réglementaire (donc par décret de l’exécutif), manière de pouvoir le réinstaller en cas de problème : “S’il y avait une situation, qui n’aurait même pas de lien avec le VIH mais qui nous obligerait à mettre en place des mesures d’urgence pour protéger les receveurs et les donneurs, nous ne pourrions plus le faire (sinon).

Une différence de taille

La nouvelle mouture votée par l’Assemblée comporte néanmoins une différence qui change tout. Les critères de sélection des donneurs n’y peuvent être fondés, est-il écrit dans l’amendement, sur une discrimination “non justifiée par la nécessité de protéger le donneur ou le receveur”Une possibilité laissée ouverte de revenir sur les critères de sélection des donneurs. “Cette formulation est une porte ouverte à une différence de traitement. J’ai le sentiment que le gouvernement souhaite donner des gages mais n’arrive pas à aller jusqu’au bout”, analyse pour TÊTU le député PS Hervé Saulignac, qui a porté l’amendement initial.

Cette année, ce n’est pas Olivier Véran qui a argumenté à l’Assemblée mais Adrien Taquet, secrétaire d’État chargé de la protection de l’enfance. “Le ministre de la Santé s’était engagé à présenter des éléments nouveaux. (…) Le risque résiduel du VIH chez les donneurs de sang a considérablement diminué ces dernières années. Santé Publique France l’évalue maintenant 1 sur 11,6 millions de dons”, a-t-il indiqué.

Sur le modèle britannique, qui s’y met la semaine prochaine, un nouveau questionnaire non discriminant sera proposé aux donneurs. Ainsi à partir du 14 juin outre-Manche, le don sera ouvert aux personnes qui ont eu le même partenaire sexuel pendant trois mois, qui n’ont pas eu d’exposition récente à une IST ou encore, qui sont utilisateurs de la PrEP. En France, “ces évolutions pourront être mises en oeuvre dès le début de l’année prochaine”, a promis le secrétaire d’État. Contacté par TÊTU, le ministère de la Santé donne une date : le 1er janvier 2022.

 

US: Review of prosecutions under Michigan’s former HIV law leads to motion to dismiss case in Ingham county

Ingham County prosecutor orders review of HIV felony convictions

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon ordered her team on Friday to review all prosecutions brought by the county under Michigan’s former felony law AIDS — Sexual Penetration with Uninformed Partner. The review found only two prosecutions. One case was dropped, but another, from 1999 remains a pending case.

Siemon has ordered her staff to file a motion refusing prosecution in the case.

“It is inconsistent with my focus on equity and anti-discrimination to charge or prosecute charges under this discriminatory and fear-based statute (the misdemeanor charges that replaced the felony charge in 2019 appropriately requires an individual to specifically intend to transmit their infections by taking actions to transmit it),” wrote in an email to Michigan Advance.

The former felony law criminalized any sexual penetration “however slight” without first disclosing an HIV-positive diagnosis to a partner. The law was adopted in 1988 and went into effect in 1989. Prosecutors were not required to prove an intent to harm in the prosecution, which advocates had called unfair.

She went on, “Certainly, the national racial disparities in who has been charged under similar laws and the additional serious and collateral consequence of potentially having to register under the Sexual Offender Registration Act are very troubling. This means that even a misdemeanor warrant request, if ever received, would be scrutinized carefully to ensure that not only could the crime elements be proven beyond a reasonable doubt but that it is overall in the interest of justice to do so.”

Siemon, who has come under pressure from victim’s families for what they perceive as her soft on criminal’s approach to justice, said the review and subsequent action to decline prosecution were motivated after reading Advance’s story about the struggle of Jeremy Merithew. Merithew was convicted under the old felony law, updated in 2019, and spent years in prison. He was ordered to enroll on the sex offender list for 25 years. He is attempting to get a pardon from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

[Update]US: Nevada Governor signs law that will modernise HIV laws in line with other communicable diseases

Governor Sisolak Signs into Law Legislation Modernizing Nevada’s HIV Laws

HENDERSON, NV – Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak today signed into law landmark legislation to reform outdated Nevada laws that criminalized and stigmatized people living with HIV. Senate Bill (SB) 275 was introduced by Senator Dallas Harris, received bipartisan support in the Senate, and it was supported by a broad alliance of advocacy groups, public health professionals, civil rights organizations and health care providers including Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, and a partner of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition.

Senate Bill (SB) 275, introduced by Sen. Dallas Harris, won approval with a unanimous vote in the Nevada Senate and by a 26-15 vote in the Assembly. The bill moved to the Governor for his signature.

On the importance of signing the bill into law Governor Sisolak said:

“Nevada is known as a warm and welcoming place for all– in our State, we celebrate our diversity. I am so grateful to sign legislation to ensure that our LGBTQ+ community feels safe, protected and can continue to grow and flourish in the Silver State. Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Senator Harris and presented in partnership with André Wade and former Senator David Parks, modernizes Nevada’s HIV criminal laws and reestablishes the Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization for the 2021-2022 Legislative Interim. We know that laws that criminalize people living with HIV don’t stop the spread, but they actually hurt our public health efforts.”

Silver State Equality released the following statement from State Director André C. Wade:

“Today, Nevada recognizes HIV as a public health issue, not a criminal one. issue. With his signature, Governor Sisolak has moved Nevada HIV laws into the 21st century by aligning them with modern science, ultimately helping to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. When people are no longer penalized for knowing their status, it encourages them to come forward, get tested and get treatment. That’s good for all Nevadans. The HIV epidemic will end not by threatening people with criminal prosecution, but instead, by encouraging people to get tested, and by providing them access to care. Today’s signing is especially great news for Nevada communities of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, who are disproportionately impacted by HIV.”

Senator Dallas Harris, Co-Chair of the Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, said:

“Nevada state law will no longer discourage Nevadans from getting tested for HIV. With the Governor’s signature today, we are helping to reduce the stigma that keeps some from learning their HIV status and getting treatment. I want to thank Governor Sisolak for his actions that are keeping Nevada at the forefront in the fight to stop the spread of HIV. Much work remains to be done, but I’m optimistic that eventually these discriminatory criminal laws targeting those living with HIV will be eliminated throughout the country.”

Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition – Connie Shearer, Chris Reynolds, and Stephan Page:

“The Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition members would like to thank Senators David Parks and Dallas Harris for their unwavering commitment to modernizing Nevada’s laws that were stigmatizing and harmful. The passing of SB275 is a great step forward toward ending the unwarranted criminalization of people living with HIV in Nevada and it supports science. This in turn supports and promotes public health for all Nevadans.”

A Statement from Connie Shearer, Co-Chair Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition:

“The Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition members would like to thank Senators David Parks and Dallas Harris for their unwavering commitment to modernizing Nevada’s laws that were stigmatizing and harmful. The passing of SB275 is a great step forward toward ending the unwarranted criminalization of people living with HIV in Nevada and it supports science. This in turn supports and promotes public health for all Nevadans.”

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation issued the following statement:

“The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation salutes Governor Sisolak for signing much needed legislative reform for people living with HIV represented in SB 275. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Harris in championing this bill. We congratulate the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition and Silver State Equality for their hard work in achieving this long-awaited reform. With the voice of our founder, Elizabeth Taylor, we stand with all organizations throughout the country who are striving to reform these discriminatory laws. We are appreciative for the opportunity to have been of support in Nevada.”

For more information, visit www.silverstateequality.org/hiv.


Published on May 26, 2021, in GlobeNewsWire

Nevada Legislature Passes Bill to Modernize State’s HIV Laws

Garnering bipartisan support, legislation will fix Nevada’s outdated, ineffective, discriminatory HIV criminal laws.

CARSON CITY, Nev., May 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —

Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization and a partner of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition, praised Nevada legislators Wednesday for their bipartisan passage of legislation that modernizes Nevada’s HIV criminal laws.

Senate Bill (SB) 275, introduced by Sen. Dallas Harris, won approval with a unanimous vote in the Nevada Senate and by a 26-15 vote in the Assembly. The bill now moves to the Governor for his signature.

The bill repeals a Nevada statute that makes it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct that is intended or likely to transmit the disease. Repealing that statute means a person who has contracted HIV and who engaged in such behavior would instead be given a warning as their first offense and, after a second offense, would be guilty of a misdemeanor — a punishment that is consistent with the treatment of other communicable diseases.

The bipartisan show of support impressed HIV activists who have been advocating for years to reform state laws that criminalize HIV with the goal of ensuring they are sync with advances in modern medicine that make transmission of the virus impossible.

Silver State Equality released the following statement from State Director André C. Wade, who — along with Sen. Harris — serves as Co-Chair of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization:

“We are extremely pleased with the passage of SB 275 via a strong bipartisan vote. This action will advance the fight against HIV transmission and help to remove HIV stigma that was perpetuated by outdated criminal laws that discouraged disclosure, and thereby testing, treatment and the use of other preventative measures. Even though changing these outdated, ineffective and discriminatory laws is simply common-sense progress, this is a huge move in the right direction. Its passage shows that the years of advocating around this issue are paying off. Our legislators and Nevada citizenry are beginning to understand that the old laws were born out of an era when evidence-based knowledge about HIV risk, transmission and treatment were exceedingly limited. Thank you to the Nevada Legislature, especially Senator Dallas Harris, who authored SB275, and for keeping Nevada at the forefront of LGBTQ+ and civil rights reform.”

Senator Harris, Co-Chair of the Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, said:

“The bipartisan passage of this bill reverses practices that were put in place during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and have proven ineffective and counterproductive from a public health perspective. The old laws also disproportionately affected already marginalized groups, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people. Passage of SB275 helps to remove the statutory stigma that was intentionally placed into our laws that’s done nothing but harm to those who contracted HIV.”

According to a recent report by the UCLA Williams Institute, which analyzed data from the state of Nevada, between 2011 and 2020, arrests for HIV crimes were double the amount from the previous decade and arrests for HIV crimes fell disproportionately on black Nevadans. Black people are 10 percent of Nevada’s population and 28 percent of people living with HIV in the state, but 40 percent of those who have been arrested for HIV crimes.

Connie Shearer, Co-Chair of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition said:

“While it’s true that the majority of arrests under HIV criminal laws are reduced or dismissed, the outdated laws continued to perpetuate misinformation and antiquated myths, fears and opinions about HIV and how it is spread. With the passage of SB275, the Nevada Legislature chose science over outdated and irrational fear.”

For more information, visit www.silverstateequality.org/hiv


Published on March 23, 2021 in The Nevada Independent

Democratic Senator seeks overhaul of HIV laws she says will help remove stigma

Sen.  (D-Las Vegas) has introduced a bill that would modernize the state’s laws on human immunodeficiency virus by treating HIV in the same way as other communicable diseases.

The bill aims to reverse practices established decades ago during the height of the AIDS epidemic — when little was known about HIV and AIDS — that have disproportionately affected already marginalized groups, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people.

“The priority for me is equality,” Harris said. “The goal is to remove the statutory stigma that was intentionally placed into our laws all the way across the country that’s done nothing but harm to those who have contracted HIV.”

The bill, SB275, would repeal a Nevada statute that makes it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct that is intended or likely to transmit the disease. Repealing that statute would mean a person who has contracted HIV and who engaged in such behavior would instead be given a warning as their first offense and, after a second offense, would be guilty of a misdemeanor — a punishment that is in line with the treatment of other communicable diseases, such as chlamydia and SARS.

“These laws were written back in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” said André Wade, chair of the state’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization. “Whenever there’s a specific call out of HIV, instead of including it as a communicable disease … then that, in and of itself, is stigmatizing.”

Wade, who also serves as the state director for Silver State Equality, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, explained that modernizing the laws is important because HIV is treated as though it is different and worse than other communicable diseases, even though it is not.

In 2019, the state’s HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program found that 11,769 Nevadans were living with HIV, with 27.6 percent of that group identified as Black, even though Black Nevadans comprise just 10.3 percent of the state’s population.

Laws criminalizing HIV arose at a time when little was known about the virus and treatment of the disease. However, as medicine has advanced, prevention medications have been created that eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. And public health experts have also learned that the virus does not spread through saliva, tears or sweat, or by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets or sharing dishes.

Samuel Garrett-Pate, communications director for Silver State Equality, said that outdated HIV laws have actually made it more difficult to contain the spread of the virus because of the stigma associated with the laws.

“We recognize that not only have these laws not worked to protect people from the transmission of HIV,” Garrett-Pate said. “They’ve actually been counterproductive … They actually discourage testing. They discourage people from learning their status. They discourage people from disclosing their status.”

Harris said she wants to encourage more testing, and an important step in doing that is removing discriminatory language in the law. Her HIV modernization bill includes provisions to update the language around HIV and other communicable diseases and to ensure that people living with HIV are referred to more respectfully in state laws.

Harris also noted the importance of ensuring equality for all through the bill, including for sex workers and inmates. The bill would repeal a Nevada statute that allows for the segregation of inmates who have tested positive for HIV — which would codify into law a directive from a February settlement between the Department of Justice and the Nevada Department of Corrections that banned the segregation practice.

The bill is also aimed at addressing the spread of communicable diseases as a public health matter, rather than through criminalization.

Existing law allows health authorities to take certain action to investigate and control the spread of communicable disease, including ordering a person to be examined for the presence of a disease and ordering the isolation, quarantine or treatment of a person.

The bill would require any such order to include the reasons why the ordered actions are necessary to prevent, suppress or control the communicable disease.

The initiatives come largely from the work of Silver State Equality and the HIV task force.

The task force — established in the 2019 session through SB284, a bill that was sponsored by now termed-out Sen.  (D-Las Vegas) — was created to address stigma surrounding HIV and to update HIV laws in Nevada based on how the public health understanding of the virus has advanced over previous decades.

Since its commencement, the task force has worked to create a report ahead of the current session that includes many of the recommendations realized in Harris’s bill. And with a provision in the bill that would re-establish the task force for the 2021-22 legislative interim, the task force could continue its work on understanding how Nevada’s HIV laws affect those who have contracted the virus.

Wade and Harris both acknowledged that there is more work to be done beyond what made it into the bill, but Wade said he thinks that the bill does most of what he and the task force sought to accomplish.

Harris said she has another bill, SB211, that would require primary care providers to offer STD and HIV testing to anyone aged 15 and older and that would work in tandem with SB275.

“Testing, testing, testing, right. If we learned anything from coronavirus, it’s, ‘go get tested,’” Harris said. “So that’s another piece. I’m hoping that’s going to work together with this modernization bill to break down some of those barriers.”

The HIV modernization bill is scheduled for its first hearing during a meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. Harris said she expects a positive response.

“I expect it to be well received,” Harris said. “The task force has done a lot of the groundwork on this… This is a result of months and months and multiple meetings with law enforcement, with [district attorney] aides, with communities of those who are living with HIV… with our health departments, with all of the stakeholders at the table.”

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