#HIVisNOTaCrime in Texas or Anywhere: Urgent Help Request

This piece is adapted from a version originally posted on Advocacy Without Borders’ blog.
WE NEED YOUR HELP. BADLY.
I have written before about HIV criminalization, here and here. Most recently, though, when I have written about it I have shared how it is currently affecting my state, Texas and I have also shared about a collaborative call where the problem and an action plan was discussed. Now I am talking about it again. Because what many of us consider our worst nightmare has come to pass.

Senate Bill 779 has been moved out of the Texas State Affairs Committee and assigned to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  With only two weeks left in the state legislative period – which will not occur again until 2017. That is NOT good news…as I have written previously:


“…the state of Texas is on the verge of taking a gigantic leap backward. There is a state bill, Senate Bill 779, that proposes to amend the state Health  and Safety Code to allow for HIV test results (which are currently confidential) to be subpoenaed during grand jury proceedings –  and for a defendant’s medical records to be accessed without their consent to establish guilt/innocence and also potentially to be used to determine sentencing. Essentially, this bill proposes to criminalize having HIV.”



We MUST oppose this. And we need YOUR help, whether you 
have HIV or not! This is a human rights issue. We need YOU to
stand with us, PLEASE!!!
The following text of the post derived in its entirety from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition (thank you, Venita!); republishing here for easier sharing. Please help now!!!
 
Senate Bill 779 Talking Points
 
“Senate Bill 779, introduced by Sen Joan Huffman, would remove the confidential nature of HIV test results and allow them to be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.  SB 779 is targeted solely at people living with HIV as stated by the Sen. Huffman in the Senate State Affairs Committee when the bill was introducedSB 779 was passed by the Senate and has now been assigned to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  We need your help defeating this bill! Please call and email the members of the committee listed below. We also need folks willing to travel to Austin to testify against this harmful bill in the next two weeks. 

SB 779 is bad for the estimated 76,000 Texans living with HIV and for Texas for the following reasons:
1. Using HIV test results in any criminal prosecution makes it appear that HIV is the crime rather than the actual crime being investigated. We need public health solutions to fight HIV and not criminal prosecutions.
 
2. Criminalizing people because they are HIV positive continues to perpetuate fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.  Texas does not have an HIV specific criminal statute. Prosecutors should charge the actual crime and not the health status!
 
3. Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment. Tests results can’t be used against you if you don’t get tested. 
 
4. There is no evidence that HIV related prosecutions increase disclosure, reduce the spread of HIV or deter the rare acts of intentional transmission.
 
5. Laws should reinforce science-based public health messages.  SB 779 could also be applied against persons charged with crimes involving spitting and biting. There is simply no need to prosecute someone for attempting to transmit HIV through spitting or biting, because that is not how HIV is transmitted.
 
6. It violates the privacy rights of people living with HIV by permitting confidential medical information to be used in a criminal proceeding.  Issuing a protective order at later stage does not prevent the violation of privacy. 
 
7. HIV is a chronically manageable disease and should not be treated as a deadly weapon. Defining HIV as a deadly weapon further stigmatizes the disease and those living with it. 
 
8. Although the bill is supposed to target cases of intentional transmission; it is overbroad and would apply to any person living with HIV involved in a criminal prosecution.  

Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Members
Chair – Rep. Abel Herrero (District 34 – Nueces)
Vice Chair – Rep. Joe Moody (District 78 – El Paso)
Rep. Terry Canales (District 40 – Hidalgo)
Rep. Todd Hunter (District 32- Nueces)
Rep. Jeff Leach (District 67 – Collin)
Rep. Matt Shaheen (District 66 – Collin)
512-463-1021
Rep. David Simpson (District 7 – Longview)
512-463-0750
Thank you.”
Here is a direct link to the committee page with all of the members’ contact info also (thanks Kristopher).
_________________________________________________
Sample Tweets You Can Send Out for #SB779 Advocacy
(*Be sure to include the Twitter handles of the members above!!!)
Ppl living w/#HIV deserve the same privacy as anyone else; vote NO on #SB779! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
 
#SB779 violates the privacy & dignity of ppl w/#HIV! #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime
 
#HIV does NOT = less than! #SB779 says otherwise. #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime
 
#SB779 is a HUGE step BACKWARDS for #TX; oppose it! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV #HIVisnotacrime
 
 
#SB779 poses a #publichealth problem not just for ppl w/#HIV, but 4 ALL of #TX.  #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
 
 
#HIVisnotacrime, but #SB779 treats it as such. Oppose this unfair bill! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV
 
#TX does NOT need #SB779 to create more #HIV stigma & fear; vote NO! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
 
#HIPAA exists 4 a reason; #SB779 violates privacy & should not pass in #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV
Texans w/#HIV are NOT 2nd class citizens; oppose #SB779 now! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
#Publichealth concerns need public health solutions, NOT criminal penalties! #SB779 #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV
#HIV should be treated the same way we treat other communicable diseases; say NO to #SB779. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
If #SB779 passes, we will lose years of progress made w/#HIV testing & treatment. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
#SB779 invades privacy & criminalizes #HIV. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
#HIV+ Texans have a right to the same privacy as Texans w/out HIV. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
#Creating fear & shame will NOT help us #Get2Zero new #HIV cases in #TX. OPPOSE #SB779! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
#HIV tests are private & only the person tested should reveal their test results; NO to #SB779. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime
Pls don’t penalize tens of thousands of law abiding Texans w/#HIV for the actions of a few; OPPOSE #SB779! #HIVisNOTacrime
oppose_sb779
Photo credit: Kristopher Sharp

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