Advocates from 34 States & 4 Countries Convene at University of Alabama-Huntsville to Strategize Addressing Discriminatory HIV Laws at 2nd National HIV Is Not a Crime Training Acadmemy

**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, MAY 17**

Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo, jsmithcamejo@pwn-usa.org, 347-553-5174

Even as a bill repealing Colorado’s HIV criminalization laws awaits the governor’s pen, much work remains to be done to bring laws up to date with current science in at least 33 states.

Eleven states have laws on the books that can send people living with HIV to prison for behaviors (such as biting and spitting) that carry virtually no risk of transmitting HIV. Forty-four states have prosecuted people living with HIV for perceived exposure or transmission; most states permit prosecution even when no transmission has occurred, and actual risk is negligible.

In Texas, a man living with HIV is currently serving a 35-year sentence for spitting. In Idaho, Kerry Thomas is serving 30 years for allegedly not disclosing his HIV status to a partner – despite the fact that he took measures to prevent transmission, including using a condom and taking medications to maintain an undetectable viral load. Kerry Thomas’ accuser never acquired HIV. Yet his appeal was recently denied, demonstrating that current science continues not to matter to the courts.

“These laws make disclosure harder. Because we so fear the punishment, we just keep things bottled up inside,” says Monique Howell-Moree, who was prosecuted under a US military non-disclosure law and would have faced 8-12 years if convicted. “I didn’t know the best way to disclose … Had I had the support and knowledge that I have now back then, I would most definitely have done things differently.”

In her HIV/AIDS platform and in a recent meeting with activists, U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for “reform[ing] outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws.” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has said the candidate is also “absolutely opposed” to these laws, according to the Washington Blade. The confluence of outdated laws, unjust prosecutions and profound disparities is bringing advocates and activists from 34 states and 4 countries together for the second national convening dedicated exclusively to strategizing to fight back in the name of human rights and public health.

WHAT: HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy
WHERE: University of Alabama, Huntsville
WHEN: May 17-20, 2016

The Training Academy is co-organized by SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network-USA, two national networks of people living with HIV. It comes on the heels of a major victory in Colorado, where through the dedicated efforts of a group known as the “CO Mod Squad” (“mod” refers to “modernization” of the law), led by Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) Colorado, a bill was passed last week that updates laws to take account of current science and eliminates HIV criminalization language.

“With people living with HIV leading the way and our allies supporting us, we were able to do something many thought we couldn’t,” said Barb Cardell, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and one of the leaders of the successful efforts. “The law now focuses on proven methods of protecting public health — like education and counseling — while discarding the language of criminalization, which actually discourages testing, treatment and disclosure.”

“This law represents real progress for Coloradans, regardless of their HIV status,” she added. At the Training Academy this week, Cardell will share some highlights and lessons learned from the CO Mod Squad’s experience.

Keynote speakers at the Training Academy include Mary Fisher, who stunned the audience at the 1992 Republican National Convention with a speech about her experience as a woman living with HIV; Joel Goldman, longtime advocate and managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; and Colorado state senator Pat Steadman, the senate sponsor of the bill just passed repealing HIV criminalization in his state. Session topics will explore best practices for changing policy, and will consider the intersections of HIV criminalization with issues ranging from institutional racism to transphobia, criminalization of sex work, mental illness and substance use, and overpolicing of marginalized communities.

“The goals of the Training Academy go beyond giving advocates the tools and know-how they need to change policy, to deepening our collective understanding of the impact of these laws and why they are enforced the way they are,” said Naina Khanna, executive director of PWN-USA. “We hope participants will leave better prepared to effect change by thinking differently, forging new partnerships and ensuring communities most heavily impacted by criminalization are in leadership in this movement.”

Several spokespeople will be available to address questions from media. You may contact the individuals below directly or through Jennie Smith-Camejo (contact information above):

Sean Strub, Director for SERO Project. (646) 642-4915; sean.strub@seroproject.com

Naina Khanna, Executive Director for Positive Women’s Network – USA. (510) 681-1169; nkhanna@pwn-usa.org

Robert Suttle, Assistant Director for SERO Project and HIV criminalization survivor from Louisiana. http://seroproject.com/video/robert-suttle/ (646) 589-2346; Robert.suttle@seroproject.com

Monique Howell-Moree, HIV criminalization survivor from South Carolina. http://seroproject.com/video/monique-moree/ (843) 345-8433; moniquemoree@gmail.com

Arianna Lint, founder and CEO of Translatin@ Services and Ariann@ Center, transgender rights and HIV activist. (786) 600-1915; ariannau@translatinacoalition.org

Barb Cardell, PWN-USA Board Member, leader of CO Mod Squad coalition behind successful Colorado bill. (303) 946-2529; barb@barbcardell.com

Check the training academy’s website and social media for the latest developments on the event:

http://www.hivisnotacrime.com

http://www.facebook.com/HIVIsNotACrimeConference

http://www.twitter.com/HIVIsNotACrime

Follow the hashtag #HIVIsNotACrime

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PWN-USA Colorado Leads Successful Effort to Repeal HIV Criminalization Statutes

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Photo credit: Victoria Law; from thebody.com

May 13, 2016: A Colorado team known as the “CO Mod Squad,” led by PWN-USA Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health, saw over four years of hard work and persistent advocacy pay off Wednesday, May 11, when Senate Bill 16-146, repealing two HIV criminalization statutes and significantly reforming the third, passed both the senate and the house. It now only awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

“Today we changed the world,” said Barb Cardell, PWN-USA Board Chair, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and a presenter at the HIV Is Not a Crime II Training Academy. “With people living with HIV leading the way and our allies supporting us, we were able to do something many thought we couldn’t and we had only dreamed of until now.”

The bill, introduced into the state senate in March by Sen. Pat Steadman (one of the keynote speakers at HIV Is Not a Crime II) and into the house by Rep. Daneya Esgar, updates statutes related to HIV to include all STIs, in accordance with current science and medical advances, and removes the HIV criminalization language in the statute.

“In 2014, at the first HIV Is Not a Crime conference in Grinnell, someone asked which state was going to be the next to reform their HIV criminalization laws,” added Kari Hartel, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado. “I answered with confidence that it was going to be Colorado! It has been a long road, and this bill isn’t perfect. But if this process has taught us anything, it’s that our advocacy efforts CAN and DO make a difference!”

Read more about this historic victory in this fantastic article by Victoria Law for TheBody.com.

Present a Session at the PWN-USA SPEAK UP! Summit

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March 31, 2016: Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) is thrilled to announce our call for session proposals for SPEAK UP! A National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV 2016.

We invite proposals for various types of sessions (affinity groups, discussion group, or workshop) for SPEAK UP! Positive Women’s Network – USA’s 2016 National Leadership Summit.

SPEAK UP! A National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV will be held September 27-30, 2016, in Fort Walton Beach, FL. This Summit is open only to women with HIV, including transgender women with HIV.

In September 2014, PWN-USA held our first-ever National Leadership Summit to build advocacy skills and leadership capacity among over 200 women living with HIV from 26 states, the US Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Participants from the 2014 Summit have gone on to do amazing work in their communities, fighting stigma, advocating for fair policies and supporting people living with HIV in their regions. The 2016 Summit will be designed for both first time participants and 2014 alumni as emerging and seasoned advocates to deepen advocacy and collective organizing strategies during a key election cycle.

You can read about the magic that happened at our 2014 Summit here.

The theme for SPEAK UP! 2016 is: Organizing for Collective Power.

We’re serious about building power. In this critical election year, we remain committed to our vision: a world where all people with HIV live free of stigma and discrimination. We work to achieve this by preparing and involving women living with HIV, in all our diversity, including gender identity and sexual expression, to be meaningfully involved at the tables where decisions are made about our lives, our communities, and our rights. We actively work at the intersections of race, class, gender, immigrant status, sexual orientation and more.

If you are interested in contributing to this growing and vibrant community, we encourage you to submit an abstract to conduct a session (workshop or other activity at the Summit). As a session leader you will ensure that information and skill-building activities are provided in line with PWN-USA values, priorities, and goals for the Summit.

There will be 5 core tracks at the Summit:

1) Rights, Power and Justice

2) Building Leadership Skills

3) Policy and Advocacy

4) Media & Strategic Communications and

5) Advancing the HIV Research, Care, and Prevention Agenda

Final decisions on session proposals will be made with an eye towards meaningful involvement of women with HIV and communities of color as presenters. In particular, we seek strong representation of women living with HIV, people of color, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and young people as presenters. We welcome abstract submissions from well-intentioned allies and encourage allies to submit in collaboration with women living with HIV.

The deadline for proposal submissions is 11 PM EDT, Friday, April 29, 2016.

For more information about submitting your proposal, click here.

To submit your proposal, click here or download the Word version of the proposal submission form.

 

PWN-USA Members Raise Awareness on National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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From coast to coast and across the World Wide Web, Positive Women’s Network – USA members took advantage of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), March 10, and the days before and after to raise awareness: both to the fact that women are still vulnerable to HIV and about the unique challenges facing them.

From hosting or co-hosting special events, like PWN-USA Philadelphia and PWN-USA Ohio did, to speaking at existing events, like PWN-USA Colorado and PWN-USA Georgia did, to writing wonderful blogs like PWN-USA Bay Area did, our members went above and beyond to make sure that the women who needed to hear the message heard it.

PWN-USA also released our community-based participatory research report on March 10, detailing the barriers to care so many women living with HIV face, in a webinar, and continued the conversation on Twitter with our partners at Greater Than AIDS and The Well Project.

The PWN-USA Ohio event inspired this lovely poem by Princess:

We are family and Sisters.

Give Love to one another, know matter what the issue my be; we all have the same thing in common, called the Virus, that continues to spread. It’s been around over 30 years.

We, as Sisters, understand one another’s feeling and love each other for who we are. We don’t expect anything from one another.

We will show our Love to each other, and say, “I understand, and together, we will overcome this Virus.”

Think positive, encourage one another, when one feels down, pick her up and give her a  loving Sister hug and say, “It’s OK, you’re going to be all right.”

Stand by each other, whether you are black or white, or in-between, in showing one another the Sister hugs. Just because we have the Virus, we are not going to let it get us down, but instead pick us up, and encourage us to pick each other up.

With our Faith, we  travel through the New Beginning of a New Day as we walk day by day, encouraging our Sisters and ourselves in saying, “We are someone and will always  be somebody,” to encourage other Sisters in fighting this Virus called HIV & AIDS.

From Sister with HIV

 

PWN-USA Launches 2 New Training Series

March 17, 2016

PWN-USA is excited to announce our launch of two new web-based training series this month: a 4-part communications training series and a 3-part policy training series, open to all women living with HIV and HIV advocates.

Click below to read more about each series and register for upcoming trainings!

Communications Training Series

Policy Training Series

Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry from the HIV/AIDS Community

February 11, 2016

Dear Entertainment Industry Leaders:

The undersigned organizations committed to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic are writing to call upon you, as entertainment industry leaders, to continue to defend and support the rights and dignity of entertainment industry workers living with HIV and to help promote greater public education on HIV. Read the full letter here.

 

Submit Your Abstract & Register for HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy!

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

Contact: Tami Haught, tami.haught@seroproject.com

January 20, 2016:  Registration for the much-anticipated HIV is Not a Crime II Training Academy, to be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is open!HIV_not_a_crime II

HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV, and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws.  “It’s time for us to  advance the discourse around intersections between HIV criminalization, racist policing, drug policy reform, and sex worker criminalization,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA, which is co-organizing the Training Academy with Sero Project. “We can best do this by building a grassroots movement for policy change, led by the communities most impacted by these issues.”

Have an idea for a workshop? We are now accepting abstracts!

There will be three tracks, focusing on:

1) Effective and Accountable Leadership,

2) Rights, Policy and Justice

3) Campaign Planning, Strategy and Messaging

Workshops will help advance informed and effective grassroots organizing and coalition-building, providing participants with concrete tools and resources to enact local, state, and federal strategies in their communities.

The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, February 26, 2016 by 5:00 pm CST (6:00 pm EST, 3:00 PST).  You will receive notice of acceptance on Friday, April 1, 2016.  

Registration is open! For more information, please visit our website: www.hivisnotacrime.com.

As a reminder, scholarship applications are due Feb. 5 and can be found here.

Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project at sean.strub@seroproject.com or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA at nkhanna@pwn-usa.org for more information. Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: tami.haught@seroproject.com.

 

Save the Date! HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy, May 17-20, 2016, Huntsville, Alabama

 HIV INC calendar graphic2**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

Contact: Tami Haught, tami.haught@seroproject.com

January 4, 2016:  After a very successful inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime National Conference last year, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network – USA are pleased to announce that the HIV is Not a Crime II National Training Academy will be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The second national conference is designed to support repeal and modernization of laws criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure and transmission.

HIV is Not a Crime II will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with HIV and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. Skills-building training, with an emphasis on grassroots organizing, advocacy, coalition-building and campaign planning, will leave participants with concrete tools and resources to work on state-level strategies when they return home.

Scholarship applications are available here and must be submitted with a letter of support by February 5, 2016. Please note that only complete applications will be reviewed. Your application will be evaluated and scored by volunteer reviewers on the Scholarship Committee, and you will receive an email response to your application by March 11, 2016.

Please stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and months.

Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub at the SERO Project or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA for more information.

Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: tami.haught@seroproject.com.

PWN-USA Members Represent on World AIDS Day 2015!

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PWN-USA members were on the move this World AIDS Day, representing at events from coast to coast! (Don’t see your event and/or photos here? Please contact Jennie at jsmithcamejo@pwn-usa.org with relevant info and/or photos and she will add them!)

PWN-USA New York City–our newest affiliated regional chapter!–participated in the Brooklyn “Saving Our Homes, Saving Our Lives” charity awards benefit to raise awareness of the challenges facing low-income and formerly homeless people living with HIV, as well as in a World AIDS Day event at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater organized to show support for Governor Cuomo’s plan to end AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.

PWN-USA South Carolina members attended a screening of the film Wilhemina’s War at the Nickelodeon Theater in Columbia, SC, sponsored by the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. PWNer Stacy Jennings also starred in a play, “Sex HIS Way,” with a plot line about women and HIV.

PWN-USA Colorado member and Board Chair Barb Cardell was quite busy on and before World AIDS Day, shuttling from one event to another, speaking at a concert hosted by the Boulder County AIDS Project, a breakfast in Fort Collins for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, a lunch in Denver for the Colorado AIDS Project, and a World AIDS Day candlelight vigil and community education event hosted by the Pueblo County Health Center. (She somehow also found time to be interviewed for this awesome article by former PWN-USA Communications Director Olivia Ford for thebody.com.)

PWN-USA member Lepena Reid in Florida rivaled Barb for being in the most places in a single day, assisting the Florida Department of Health in testing over 190 people on December 1, representing PWN-USA at a historical black church in Tampa alongside students from University of South Florida, Pastors on Patrol, local ASOs, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Purple Up for Domestic Violence, Delta Sigma sorority; and at a dedication of the AIDS Memorial Park in Tampa with the mayor, the AIDS Institute, the Department of Health, other ASOs and government officials. (See photos in slideshow above.)

PWN-USA Philly, not to be outdone, represented PWN at a World AIDS Day event at Temple University, addressing the gathering on the subject of HIV criminalization (see photo in slideshow above).

In San Francisco, PWN-USA Bay Area members attended the amfAR Cure Summit at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where researchers explained progress toward a cure for HIV that will be furthered with a $20 million grant just received from amfAR, bringing attention to populations (such as women) too often left out of clinical trials.

In North Carolina, PWN-USA Strategic Communications Action Team member Alicia Diggs participated in a press conference with the North Carolina AIDS Action Network in Durham (see photo in slideshow above).

PWN-USA Louisiana member Rachel Moats shared her story in an article that came out on December 1 in Women’s Health magazine to fight stigma.

PWN-USA Georgia members were very active in fighting stigma across the state, representing at a World AIDS Day event at Morehouse College in Atlanta and at another at the Betterway Foundation in Columbus, GA. (See photos in slideshow above.) Members and allies participated in a special event in honor of World AIDS Day at Shy Temple Memorial Church in Atlanta on December 4, including a writing workshop led by author Khafre Kujichagulia, a candlelight vigil and a balloon release (see photos in slideshow above). One of the chapter’s newest members, Danielle Atkins (a.k.a. Ghetto Rose) even performed in a World AIDS Day commemoration event at Tavernpointe Kitchen and Bar in Atlanta. And on December 1, a breathtakingly beautiful documentary about another new PWN-USA Georgia member, Patricia Semiens, was released. Watch it here and share widely!

National HIV/AIDS Strategy and Federal Action Plan Are Inadequate!

Both documents represent missed opportunities to fully address the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

As researchers, government officials, policy experts and advocates gather for the National HIV Prevention Conference, a diverse coalition of networks of people living with HIV (PLHIV), and our key partners and allies, from all over the U.S. have joined together to express our deep dissatisfaction and disappointment regarding the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS): Updated for 2020 and the accompanying Federal Action Plan.

We have repeatedly attempted to engage in dialogue with and share our recommendations for the NHAS, but have been met with little interest from the Administration. The development and implementation of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that included greater and more meaningful involvement of PLHIV and community partners would hasten progress in the effort to end HIV as well as be a powerful legacy for President Obama and subsequent administrations.

The Federal Action Plan is an underwhelming update and trumpets what has already been accomplished rather than providing specifics about what must be done. For example, citing the July 2014 issuance from the Department of Justice’s Best Practices Guidance informing state Attorney General’s about HIV criminalization concerns, while important, is not new.

In other cases, we see that mandates are not met. President Obama’s Executive Order, issued in July 2015, required the development of recommendations for increasing employment opportunities for PLHIV.  Yet such recommendations are not evident in the Federal Action Plan. There also are no assigned roles for key federal agencies (including those responsible for HIV care and prevention) to identify and address employment needs, nor capacity building to support community-based efforts to do so.

We are disappointed to note that once again, as was the case throughout the Bush presidency, key stakeholder groups that are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic have been entirely omitted or miscategorized, including sex workers, immigrants and people of trans experience.

The Federal Action Plan also fails to set forth any mechanisms for involvement by people living with HIV, including PLHIV networks, in achieving critical goals, including universal viral suppression.

We are tired of having our vital concerns and expertise ignored or dismissed and being invited to participate at tables already set for us, with an entire menu already planned, and usually at the last minute. Since the first NHAS was released in 2010, we know our involvement, usually uninvited — perhaps sometimes unwelcome — has constructively helped to shape improvements in HIV prevention, care and treatment.

NHAS 2020 calls for “greater and more meaningful involvement of people living with HIV”. It is time to back up that rhetoric with specific steps to more proactively engage and more efficiently utilize the expertise of networks of people living with HIV.

We call for PLHIV to be seen as the subject matter experts on our lives—not merely as “patients,” “clients” or “consumers”—and to be included in meaningful and specific ways in the ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

If we as a nation truly seek to end the epidemic, it will require more than biomedical interventions. It will require leadership by and partnership with the networks of PLHIV and every key population of people living with or at risk of acquiring HIV.  Among our most pressing priorities are the following:

  • We must include sex workers in every conversation, acknowledging that criminalization of sex work and the related policing of transgender people are directly linked to consistently worse health outcomes for communities affected by this criminalization.
  • We must provide culturally relevant access to testing and healthcare for immigrants without criminalization and penalties, not only through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, but also through the providers that serve these communities.
  • We must provide strong leadership against state and military laws that target PLHIV and provide for review of previous prosecutions.
  • We must collect better housing data for those under the age of 18 who are living with or at risk of acquiring HIV and we must measure housing needs by assessing housing instability and not just homelessness.
  • Rather than simply address discrimination with current laws, we must research and acknowledge HIV stigma to address it systematically with federal agencies, partners and federal grantees.
  • PrEP is an important prevention strategy within a limited range of communities but for many transgender people and sex workers “test and treat” and “treatment as prevention” approaches, including PrEP, divert resources away from approaches that we know work, such as comprehensive peer-led prevention programs and advocacy to remove legal barriers, criminalization and policing of condoms and medications.
  • We must immediately remove transgender people from the MSM (men who have sex with men) category to truly measure and address the epidemic in this community.
  • Finally, we must act quickly and comprehensively to address the social and structural factors which continue to drive the incidence of HIV and health disparities in communities of color, particularly black gay men and black women, who remain severely disproportionately impacted by HIV.

We, PLHIV and our networks, as well as those allied with us, deserve and demand a better and more inclusive National HIV/AIDS Strategy that includes meaningful engagement for PLHIV networks and key population stakeholder groups to partner with the Interagency Working Group created in the Executive Order.

We demand to have meetings with the Office of National AIDS Policy, the Federal Interagency Working Group, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss NHAS 2020 and its accompanying Federal Action Plan and the Community Action Framework that was developed without adequate community input.

This statement is supported by #PersistentAdvocates living with and affected by HIV.

This statement is reposted with permission from hivcaucus.org.

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A strong show of support and solidarity for sex workers left out of the NHAS and Federal Action Plan, organized by advocates including PWN-USA, at the opening plenary for the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, December 6.