This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement. As we celebrate the court victories for marriage equality, the demise of ‘Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell’ and the growing visibility of our community in all spheres of public life, we also reflect on those who have been left behind: queer urban youth, immigrants, and those threatened with prosecution or deportation because of their HIV status.
And today, just two days before the New York City celebration of LGBT Pride, National HIV Testing Day reminds us that the epidemic that devastated our community is far from over. Truly effective treatments have completely changed what it means to be living with HIV, but thousands don’t have access to them or to health care providers that can provide care without judgment. Testing positive is hardly a death sentence, but it can be a prison sentence in many of the thirty-two states that still have laws making HIV positive status a potential crime, criminalizing consensual sex and behaviors that pose no threat of HIV transmission.
When we encourage people to get tested we must ask ourselves what we are doing to protect them from the stigma and the threat of prosecution or deportation they may face. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when we still have so many laws that unjustly target our community.
So celebrate Pride by taking action. Sign on to the Positive Justice Project National Consensus Statement on HIV Criminalization and join the PJP State Advocacy Working Group for your state.
Getting rid of laws that can make HIV status a felony would be something we all could celebrate with pride.