When Sex Is A Crime And Spit Is A Dangerous Weapon

By |2014-04-20T09:00:00-04:00April 20th, 2014|Michigan, News|

FERNDALE – The criminalization of HIV is a reality with far-reaching consequences, and it’s time to have a serious discussion about it. A coalition of LGBT and HIV specific groups are hosting a community forum called “When Sex is a Crime and Spit is a Dangerous Weapon: HIV Criminalization in Michigan.”
The forum takes place March 29 from 2 – 4 p.m. at Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale. There is no charge for the event.
BTL, Positive Justice Project, AIDS Partnership Michigan, American Civil Liberties Union, Badland Strategies, Michigan AIDS Coalition and Equality Michigan have come together to create the forum, hosted by longtime patient advocate and journalist Todd Heywood.
Heywood’s research has found that there have been at least 60 prosecutions of people living with HIV in Michigan under MCL 333.5210, and his goal is to help the public better understand why this law is unfair and ineffective. He plans on discussing the many flaws in Michigan law, including:
First, the law is extremely broad to include any sexual penetration “however slight.” This has been used for some pretty ridiculous prosecutions where risk of transmission did not exist.
Second, the law provides zero protection for people who know their status, but have taken all the requisite health moves to protect themselves and others.
Three, Michigan’s law criminalizes sex while HIV positive, but does nothing to address needle sharing while HIV-positive.
Four, HIV is the only disease in Michigan with a felony attached to it.
Five, the law flies in the face of public health reality. The vast majority of cases of new infections are caused by people who are infected, but unaware of that infection. The transmissions are occurring early in infection – called acute infection – when viral loads are very high (meaning the person is very infectious).
Six, scientists who have been studying the laws say if the laws really had an impact on transmission, the purported reasoning for the law when passed in 1989, then we would see significantly reduced rates of new infections in states with such laws. That is simply not the case. The rates remain stable regardless of the laws.
Seven, the law prevents people from taking control of their own health, and places the onus on the person living with HIV and knows they are living with the virus to disclose the infection as a prevention method. It simply does not work – for a host of social reasons.
Heywood is a leading investigative journalist reporting on the HIV crisis in Michigan and the U.S. His work has appeared in BTL, The American Independent, The Advocate, POZ Magazine and HIV Plus Magazine. He is a regular visitor to Michigan colleges where he discusses the history of HIV criminalization as well as new prevention science that could lead to the end of the epidemic. He was named one of the POZ 100 in 2011 by POZ Magazine, and a person making a difference by http://TheBody.com that same year. He has been living with HIV since 2007.
Other presenters include Dr. Gregory Popp, Jay Kaplan, LGBT project staff attorney at ACLU Michigan, attorney Rudy Serra, Lydia Hansons from Affirmations and experts from local AIDS Service Organizations.

For more information visit Affirmation’s website at http://www.goaffirmations.org/events/event_details.asp?id=405985.

About the Author:

Crystal A. Proxmire
Crystal Proxmire is the editor and publisher of The Oakland County Times. She loves covering municipal governance and cheering on community efforts.