CHLP and HIV Criminalization: If You Want To Know Where You're Headed, It's Helpful To Know Where You've Been

Challenging HIV criminal laws from the beginning.

The Center for HIV Law and Policy coordinates the Positive Justice Project, the first national coalition in the U.S formed to address the issue of HIV criminalization. PJP has gone through a number of changes since its launch a decade ago, but our primary focus has not changed: careful, accurate legal analysis and bill drafting put in “human terms” for state advocates who are supported in taking the lead in changing the law in their states.  For years we have published and updated the Sourcebook on State and Federal HIV Criminal Law and Practice, the only compilation of HIV and STI laws and cases in the U.S.

CHLP, and founding executive director Catherine Hanssens, have a history with fighting criminalization that goes back to the earliest days of the HIV epidemic. For a short walk down memory lane, here’s an interview from 13 years ago with Bonnie Goldman (who died from breast cancer in 2012) on the topic. As you’ll see, Hanssens’ (and CHLP’s) concern with the heavy impact of HIV criminal laws on sex workers and other people “on the margins” goes way back to the beginning.

And here’s the transcript of a discussion on HIV criminal laws from 22 years ago, moderated by Hanssens, and featuring Dennis DeLeon, the esteemed former executive director of the Latino Commission on AIDS who died in 2009; Joseph Sonnabend, AIDS physician and researcher, former director of Stuyvesant Poly Clinic in New York City; Ron Bayer (Mr. “AIDS Exceptionalism” and a supporter of HIV criminal laws), Professor of Public Health at Columbia University; Uffe Gartner, prevention educator, AIDES, Copenhagen, Denmark; Stephen Gendin, a brilliant activist who died of AIDS in 2000 at 34 and was president of Community Prescription Services and POZ vice-president; and Meurig Horton, PLHIV, epidemiologist and former member of WHO’s Global AIDS Program, London, England. It's a compelling conversation,  and fascinating at least in part because of its relevance 22 years later.