September 4, 2017
by Shyronn Jones, PWN-USA Policy Fellow
August 30, 2017, the Georgia Coalition to End HIV Criminalization, in partnership with In The Life Atlanta (ITLA), held a Community Panel and Discussion about how Georgia’s HIV Criminalization laws affect Georgians lives and work. It was organized by Johnnie Korngay of the Counter Narrative Project and Emily Halden Brown of Equality Foundation of Georgia.
We discussed the top 10 reasons Georgia’s HIV criminalization laws (GA.CODE ANN. 16-5-60(c)-(d)) MUST be modernized today:
- HIV criminalization laws create a false sense of security among Georgians.
- With HIV status disclosure, the burden of proof is on the accused person.
- HIV criminalization may deter people from getting tested for HIV.
- These laws may deter people living with HIV from seeking medical care.
- HIV criminalization magnifies HIV stigma, which itself is deadly.
- The science behind Georgia’s HIV laws is outdated.
- These laws do not require intent to harm, exposure to HIV, or HIV transmission for prosecution to occur.
- Disclosure of HIV status can be dangerous.
- These laws further burden already vulnerable Georgians.
- Georgia’s law is a legal hammer that singles out people living with HIV.
Prior to this event, The Georgia Coalition to End HIV Criminalization, the World AIDS Day Atlanta Advisory Board and SERO Project #HIVIsNotACrime held an open call for people living with HIV who reside in the state of Georgia to submit a self-created visual art–in the form of photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, written words, etc. on themes related to the modernization of HIV criminalization laws, for their HIV DE-CRIMINALIZATION POSTCARD PROJECT.
Six finalist submissions were selected and their artistic works were made into postcards to educate the public, elected officials and community leaders about HIV criminalization’s detrimental effects on Georgia’s ability to fight HIV/AIDS and to bring awareness to the need to modernize Georgia’s HIV criminalization laws. Artists were honored and postcards were unveiled at this event.
My artistic piece was one of the six finalists selected to be made into a postcard (above). My quote reads:
“I’m not armed or dangerous. I RESIST the unjust criminalization of people living with HIV who know their HIV status, and are proactively taking action to not transmit HIV to others!”
My self-portrait of me wearing an HIV is Not a Crime T-shirt signifies:
- “Hands up, don’t shoot” a nonverbal communication of people all across America who are fed up with police violence. 2. A gesture that I’m not armed or dangerous! 3. “Put your hands up! You’re under arrest” is what majority people living with HIV don’t deserve to hear or stand in this physical position. 4. “Stop” I resist the unjust criminalization of people living with HIV who know their HIV status, and are proactively taking action to not transmit HIV to others!
- The light bulb signifies a police officer treating person living with HIV as an object of fear in the interrogation room and dominating the conversation with aggressive false statements relayed and/or made based on accusations, propaganda, non-evidence based speculations, false interpretations and stigma.
- The concrete wall signifies a prison cell block. Prison is one of the worst places for people living with HIV because HIV prevention and treatment services are often limited in prisons.
People living with HIV deserve healthcare, not prison time.
An investigation of seroconversions reported from 1988–2005 among male Georgia prison inmates found “HIV prevalence among state prison inmates in the United States is more than five times higher than among non-incarcerated persons.”
“The effectiveness of treatment can also be undermined by substandard prison conditions, poor nutrition and violence. Moreover, prison health services often have too few or poorly trained staff, inadequate health assessments on entry, poor record keeping, and breaches of confidentiality. Even in adequately staffed facilities, prison staff have negative attitudes towards key populations, contributing to poor monitoring and treatment of HIV as well as TB, hepatitis and drug dependency.” www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/key-affected-populations/prisoners.
In addition to prisons not ensuring access to condoms, this factors results in HIV transmission among male inmates in a state prison system — Georgia, 1992—2005 with negative HIV test result upon entry into prison and a subsequent confirmed positive HIV test result during incarceration. Let’s also not ignore the inconvenient truth of temporary bi-sexuality survival sex that happens in jail for a variety of reasons.
Learn more about Georgia’s outdated, harmful HIV criminalization laws: www.TheGeorgiaCoalition.Wordpress,
Download PWN-USA Criminalization Factsheet
THEN GET THE WORD OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA with these sample messages about why HIV criminalization law should be modernized!
Get to know the details of Georgia’s HIV criminalization laws and why they’re no good: http://bit.ly/2g5T9Hc #HIVisNotACrime
HIV criminalization laws place the burden of proof on the accused. Even if a person living with HIV disclose, it’s the accuser’s word against the accused. http://bit.ly/2xtqa3v #HIVisNotACrime
HIV criminalization is legalized structural institutionalized stigma and discrimination. How can we end stigma when it’s written into law? Stigma keeps people from getting tested, treated or talking about HIV. http://bit.ly/2xtqa3v #HIVisNotACrime
Things that protect people from HIV: Undetectable Partner Condoms, PrEP. Things that don’t: HIV Criminalization. http://bit.ly/2xtqa3v #HIVisNotACrime
HIV criminalization laws were written in the 80’s. A lot has changed since then. http://bit.ly/2xtqa3v #HIVisNotACrime
Attendees of the Community Panel and Discussion were given the opportunity to engage with Georgia’s elected officials on the special committee studying HIV criminalization’s laws by filling out a post card about why they think Georgia’s HIV criminalization laws should be modernized. To obtain post cards an/or for more information contact Emily Brown at email@example.com and/ or firstname.lastname@example.org