Tuesday's announcement by Charlie Sheen regarding his HIV status garnered much media attention. As disappointing as the sensationalism around that has been, it also provided a national spotlight and a "teachable moment" on the issues that CHLP deals with every day. The two main issues at play are the areas of HIV stigmatization and criminalization, and all the places they intersect.
Selected Media Coverage
This article from the Huffington Post's Anna Almendraia gets to the heart of the stigma associated with having HIV. It rounds out with five salient points to keep in mind about the basic rights of people living with HIV.
"Engaging in that kind of witch hunt, and suggesting that having HIV is relevant to someone’s character or personality, is like insisting the moon is made of green cheese,” said Catherine Hanssens, founder of the Center for HIV Law and Policy, an organization that defends the rights of people with HIV. "It has no bearing on current reality."
Variety focuses on Sheen's career and highlights how PLWH live "normal, healthy lives" and the need to educate people about HIV transmission and prevention.
“Just the fact that there were people who could try to blackmail him about his status speaks to the fact that we haven’t come as far as we need to in eliminating the stigma, and that the fear is still with us in a very palpable way,” said Allison Nichol, co-director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy in New York.
The Daily News hones in on the criminalization aspect and how laws that penalize HIV are a relic from decades ago.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy paper reveals a man in Iowa with an undetectable viral load was hit with a 25-year sentence after a one-time sexual encounter where he used a condom. His sentence was suspended, but he had to register as a sex offender. Now he's not allowed to see his nieces, nephews and other young children unsupervised."The laws that are on the books are really antiquated," says Mayo Schreiber, a criminal law attorney and deputy director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy.
US News takes a similar tack regarding criminalization but with an eye towards disclosure and consent and how fear of being persecuted becomes an incentive for people not to get tested:
Opponents of the law say HIV should not receive the kind of criminal charges associated with it, particularly given that when treated it is nearly impossible to transmit, and explain that fear of the disclosure laws may discourage people from getting tested – if you have HIV but have not been diagnosed, you cannot face charges under these laws.
People magazine focuses on the legal issues including criminalization and the laws in California.
"Yet as Catherine Hanssens and Allison Nichol from the Center of HIV Law & Policy – which seeks to protect the rights of those living with the virus – stress, HIV has become a manageable medical condition....."