Positive Justice Project
A NEW STRATEGY TO END CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT AND DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF HIV INFECTION:
From the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, stigma and fear have fueled mistreatment of people living with HIV. One of the more troubling and persistent issues for people with HIV has been the prospect of criminal prosecution for acts of consensual sex and for conduct, such as spitting or biting, that poses no significant risk of HIV transmission. The Positive Justice Project is CHLP's response to this issue: a truly community-driven, multidisciplinary collaboration to end government reliance on an individual's positive HIV test result as proof of intent to harm, and the basis for irrationally severe treatment in the criminal justice system.
The Positive Justice Project is a national coalition of organizations and individuals, including people living with or at greatest risk of HIV, those who have been arrested or prosecuted, medical and public health professionals, community organizers, advocates, attorneys, law enforcement, sex workers, social scientists and others working to end HIV criminalization in the United States. We engage in federal and state policy advocacy, resource creation, support of local advocates and attorneys working on HIV criminal cases, and educating, organizing and mobilizing communities and policy makers in the United States.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy, PJP's founding organization, provides ongoing coordination with the active support of PJP's seven working group chairs and the many individual and organizational members of PJP.
There are six Positive Justice Project working groups with specific areas of focus to help meet the PJP goals. The list below describes each working group:
- Federal Advocacy: focuses on strategies targeting federal agencies (e.g., the Department of Justice; PACHA; Office of National AIDS Policy, etc.) and federal policies (e.g., RWCA incentives to states to adopt laws; prosecution of HIV+ service members).
Working Group Co-Chairs: William McColl, Director of Political Affairs, AIDS United, and Catherine Hanssens, Ex. Dir., Center for HIV Law and Policy
- State Advocacy: works with local advocates to develop strategies to modernize criminal laws and prosecution policies that target people with HIV .
Working Group Chair: Rashida Richardson, Staff Attorney, Center for HIV Law and Policy
- Community Outreach: engages members and leaders of key communities and organizations, e.g., people of color, women, religious LGBT, civil rights, and others to combat HIV criminalization.
Working Group Co-Chairs: Lisa Fager Bediako, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Athena Moore, Director Public Policy, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and Brian Datcher, Community Health Center Association of Connecticut
- Media: develops messaging, media strategies, and talking points to educate the media, constituencies and policy makers about the harms of HIV criminalization.
- Public Health: engages public health leaders, agencies and professional organizations to become visibly involved in the movement to end HIV criminalization.
Working Group Co-Chairs: Terrance Moore, Director of Policy and Health Equity, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), and Oscar Mairena, Manager of Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
- Legal: researches and reports on legal developments and trends, possible challenges to existing laws, alternatives to current HIV criminalization laws and approaches, post-conviction relief for currently-incarcerated individuals, and assistance to attorneys in pending cases.
Working Group Co-Chairs: Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director, Lambda Legal, and Andrew Novack, Adjunct Prof. of African Law, American University, Washington College of Law
If you are interested in joining a working group of the Positive Justice Project, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Positive Justice Project, click here.
To see a list of PJP's organizational members, click here.
You can find examples of media coverage of the Positive Justice Project here.
A Legal Toolkit: Resources for Attorneys Handling HIV-Related Prosecutions, Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization, A Manual for Advocates, Volume 2, The Center for HIV Law and Policy (2013)
The Legal Toolkit was created primarily as a go-to resource for lawyers representing people living with HIV who are facing criminal prosecution based on HIV status. However, other advocates are likely to find the Legal Toolkit useful. The Toolkit includes charts, articles, guidance, case law, legal analysis, scientific data and citations to empirical studies on the impact of HIV criminalization on individuals affected by HIV. The Toolkit pulls together into one place a wealth of information, both quick-reference resources (e.g. a Chart on the Relative Risk of HIV and other STIs) and links to longer reference materials (e.g. sample briefs) that are located, along with a summary of each document, in CHLP's online HIV Policy Resource Bank.
Spit Does Not Transmit, The Center for HIV Law and Policy, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the American Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (2013).
Every year people with HIV are the subject of felony criminal charges ranging from aggravated assault to intentional HIV transmission following police encounters in which defendants are accused of spitting at or biting police or corrections officers. This brief factsheet provides current information, complete with citations, about the actual transmission risks that law enforcement professionals may face in the line of duty.
Positive Justice Project Consensus Statement on HIV Criminalization in the United States (2012), Positive Justice Project/Center for HIV Law and Policy
This is a joint statement issued by The Positive Justice Project (PJP) on the urgent need to modernize HIV criminal laws and prosecution policies, and to end the use of special laws and rules for the handling of criminal complaints that a person with HIV "exposed" another person to their bodily fluids. This document includes a list of endorsements by a wide ranging number of organizations, advocates and individuals. If you or your organization would like to endorse the Consensus Statement, please email email@example.com.
Chart: State-by-State Criminal Laws Used to Prosecute People with HIV, Center for HIV Law and Policy (2012)
This chart catalogues by state the laws used to prosecute individuals with HIV. The chart includes which states and territories have HIV-specific criminal statutes, what type of behavior is criminalized, whether there are general STI criminal statutes, whether there is sex offender registration, and whether general felony statutes have been used to prosecute individuals with HIV.
Transmission Routes, Viral Loads and Relative Risks: The Science of HIV for Lawyers and Advocates, Center for HIV Law and Policy, 2011.
Summarizes key scientific sources and selected quotations on the nature of HIV in ways that are accessible and useful for legal briefs and other advocacy work. The publication includes sections on HIV as a chronic disease, HIV as an impairment of the immune system and a covered disability under the ADA/ADAAA, the routes and risk of HIV transmission, and the use and limits of phylogenetic analysis in proving the source of an individual's HIV infection.
HIV Criminalization, Are You at Risk?, Palm Card, Positive Justice Project (2011)
This palm card, published by the Positive Justice Project, provides information about HIV criminalization, ways to protect oneself from arrest, and what to do if one is arrested. If you would like to receive the printed palm cards for distribution to your networks or clients, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Guidance for People Living with HIV Who Are At Risk of, or Are Facing, Criminal Prosecution for HIV Nondisclosure or Exposure, Center for HIV Law and Policy (2011).
This fact sheet gives basic but essential guidance on what to do when the risk of criminal prosecution for HIV nondisclosure or exposure may be a reality. Thirty-four states and territories have laws that criminalize HIV exposure and/or nondisclosure of HIV status during sex or other contact with "body fluids"(saliva, blood), so it's important that people living with HIV have essential information about how they can avoid or prepare for possible criminal prosecution. The fact sheet outlines basic "dos" and "don'ts" and includes a list of legal resources.
Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions (2010, updated 2011, 2012).
CHLP has released the first comprehensive analysis of HIV-specific criminal laws and prosecutions in the United States. The publication, Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions, covers policies and cases in all fifty states, the military, federal prisons and U.S. territories. This manual is intended as a resource for lawyers and community advocates on the laws, cases, and trends that define HIV criminalization in the United States. Thirty-two states and two U.S. territories have HIV-specific criminal statutes and thirty-six states have reported proceedings in which HIV-positive people have been arrested and/or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting, and spitting. At least eighty such prosecutions have occurred in the last two years alone.
Positive Justice Project: Prosecutions for HIV Exposure in the United States, 2008-2012, The Center for HIV Law and Policy
This list, although not exhaustive, provides a broad snapshot of the spate of prosecutions for HIV exposure in the United States from 2008 through September 2011. The vast majority of the prosecutions listed here involves conduct that is either consensual (sex) or poses no significant risk of HIV transmission (spitting, biting). Although the outcomes of some cases remain unknown, the outcomes that are known often involve draconian penalties, including prison sentences that reach 25 years or more, even when no transmission of HIV occurred.
Positive Justice Project: HIV Criminalization Fact Sheet
The Positive Justice Project's HIV Criminalization Fact Sheet provides a quick summary of the facts and issues surrounding HIV criminalization in the United States. Currently there are 32 states and 2 U.S. territories that explicitly criminalize HIV exposure through sex, shared needles, and, in some jurisdictions, through "bodily fluids", including saliva. In these cases, neither proof of the intent to transmit HIV nor actual transmission are required. Sentences for HIV-positive persons convicted of HIV exposure are typically very harsh and disproportionate to the actual or potential harm presented in the facts of the case, perpetuating the stigma that HIV-positive people are toxic and dangerous.