The increasing investment in HIV criminal justice work has produced visible engagement of LGBT organizations in HIV criminalization and other misuses of the criminal justice system based on identity and disability-based bias.
 The Center for HIV Law and Policy’s work on criminal justice issues, particularly the ongoing work of the Positive Justice Project, is possible thanks to support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the MAC AIDS Fund, the Ford Foundation, Broadway Cares-Equity Fights, the John M. Lloyd Foundation, and Gilead.
Advocates Across the Country Demand More Action on HIV Ignorance and the Over-Criminalized in the NHAS 2020 Federal Action Plan
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States: Updated to 2020 (“NHAS 2020”) is an extremely important document for people living with HIV and their advocates – it summarizes the White House view of the status of our nation’s response to the domestic HIV epidemic and the key steps for the continuing work to address it. If it’s not in the NHAS 2020, don’t count on it getting much attention (and financial investment) from federal agencies over the next five years.
However, at least as important, if not more so, is the NHAS 2020 Federal Action Plan, which sets out the particular goals and tasks that each federal agency will assume in meeting their obligations to advance the strategy. It’s the “who will do exactly what and by when” part of the strategy, and therefore something PLWH and their advocates should take seriously.
After the release of the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2015, CHLP, the National LGBT Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Rights and other partners in the LGBTHIV Criminal Justice Working Group’s HIV Criminalization subgroup, drafted recommendations for needed action steps to tackle 1) broad public ignorance about HIV, STIs and identities associated with stigmatized diseases; 2) the criminalization of HIV; 3) the mistreatment of individuals living with or at risk of HIV in criminal justice and immigration detention facilities, and in the military; and 4) the need for focused prevention and health services for sex workers and people who inject drugs, including reform of law enforcement policies that are barriers to service access. More than 80 organizations and individuals endorsed the statement (attached at the end of this Update).
It is very important that people living with HIV and their advocates tell key federal agencies as soon as possible what their specific priorities are in terms of action steps to implement the NHAS 2020.
Each federal agency has 100 days from the date that the NHAS 2020 was released – i.e., until November 6, 2015 – to submit their agency action plans to ONAP and OMB (the Office of Management and Budget). Each agency’s action plan will be incorporated into the Federal Action plan as short, bulleted action steps that relate to the general goals of the NHAS.
To get an idea of what that looks like, check out the Federal Implementation Plan for the original NHAS in 2010. Your recommendations to each agency contact should follow that format. You can use the “asks” at the end of this PJP Update, or use them as a guide to formulate asks in other areas of importance to you.
Here are key sections from the President’s Executive Order, issued on 7/30/15 with the NHAS 2020, that list the lead federal agencies and describe what they need to do with respect to the Federal Action Plan:
Sec. 3. Lead Agency Responsibilities. While the Updated Strategy will require a Government-wide effort in order to succeed fully, certain agencies have primary responsibilities and competencies in implementing the Updated Strategy.
(a) Designation of Lead Agencies. Lead agencies for implementing the Updated Strategy shall be:
(b) Lead Agency Action Plans. Within 100 days of the date of this order, the head of each lead agency shall submit a report to ONAP and OMB on the agency's action plan for implementing the Updated Strategy. The plans shall assign responsibilities to agency officials, designate reporting structures for actions identified in the Federal Action Plan, and identify other appropriate actions to advance the Updated Strategy. The plans shall also include steps to strengthen coordination in planning, budgeting for, and evaluating domestic HIV/AIDS programs within and across agencies. Lead agencies are encouraged to consider, and reflect in their plans, steps to streamline grantee reporting requirements and funding announcements related to HIV/AIDS programs and activities.
The Prosecutor, the Survivor, the State Health Agency Representative and the Lawyer: Congressional Briefing on The REPEAL Act and HIV Criminalization
On July 28, 2015 the U.S. Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, AIDS United and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) co-sponsored a Congressional briefing, The Over-Criminalization of HIV and the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act(H.R.1586,) for a packed room. Those who attended – about half of whom were Congressional staffers – learned about the outdated rationale and profound harm that HIV-based prosecutions cause from a panel consisting of Robert Suttle, Assistant Director at the Sero Project and a survivor of an HIV criminal law conviction; Daniel A. Kirk, First Assistant State’s Attorney at the Cook County (Chicago) State’s Attorney’s Office; CHLP Executive Director Catherine Hanssens, Esq.; and NASTAD's Terrance Moore (briefing moderator), who led his agency’s survey of state health agency policies on HIV and criminalization.
Left: Michael Kaplan, ED of AIDS United, one of the co-sponsors of the Congressional Briefing on the REPEAL Act and HIV Criminalization. Right: Daniel Kirk (standing) explains how information changes minds, and why he supports the PJP Guiding Principles for reform, with (seated, left to right) Robert Suttle, Terrance Moore and Catherine Hanssens.
State Advocacy Working Group Updates
Next Meeting: The week of October 12th, time and date to be determined.
Next Meeting: September 30, 2015 at 2:00PM Central Time
Normally meetings are the 4th Thursday at Noon Central Time. September was changed to accommodate State Department of Health Meetings that includes local working group members.
CHLP assists criminal defense attorneys in HIV exposure/transmission cases. We are providing back-up help, from identifying experts to drafting amicus briefs, in cases in Missouri, Florida, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma. Among the cases we currently are involved in are the Michael Johnson and Nushawn Williams cases in Missouri and New York.
 To read the text of the Missouri Law under which Mr. Johnson was convicted, see Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions, The Center for HIV Law and Policy (Updated May 2015). The manual includes the complete text of every U.S. state and territory’s HIV criminal law, with examples of prosecutions under those laws.
Almost every type of HIV-related discrimination and associated stigma—from denials of medical treatment or admission to schools and camps to unwarranted felony prosecutions for HIV “exposure”—is rooted in gross misperceptions about the actual routes, risks and current realities of HIV transmission and treatment. Extraordinary progress in treatment options has transformed what it means to live with HIV, yet public understanding of HIV seems largely stuck in the 1980’s, before HIV was a treatable, chronic disease.
This fact sheet was created as part of a larger effort to arm advocates and policy makers with concise, authoritative information that addresses the major areas of ignorance with facts about what is currently well-known about how HIV is (and is not) transmitted, and how modern HIV care has transformed the health and longevity of people living with HIV while reducing transmission to others.
The contributors to and reviewers of the fact sheet are Dr. David Wohl, Associate Professor/Site Leader at Univ. North Carolina AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Chapel Hill, Director of the North Carolina AIDS Education and Training Center, and Co-Director of HIV Services for the N.C. Department of Public Safety; Dr. Wendy Armstrong, Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory Univ. School of Medicine, and Medical Director, Ponce de Leon Clinic/Grady Health System; and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, one of the earliest researchers and most respected clinicians in the field of HIV.
Guiding Principles for Eliminating Disease-specific Criminal Laws, The Steering Committee of the Positive Justice Project (2015)
After much discussion, the PJP Steering Committee agreed on the following set of principles to guide the modernization of state HIV criminal law modernization regardless of the particular jurisdiction. They have proven to be a useful tool to guide discussions and build consensus on specific state law proposals for reform. Your feedback, comments, suggestions on these Principles are encouraged. Some advocates have tailored the principles for their particular group by adding an additional principles on the need to recognize racial and gender bias in the criminal law.
Please send your feedback or suggestions to Senior Community Outreach Specialist Lauren Fanning, at LFanning@hivlawandpolicy.org
The Guiding Principles state:
Accurate Information = Power!
For free access to legal, scientific and policy resources to increase your advocacy power, search the HIV Policy Resource Bank, an annotated collection of fact sheets, court cases, scientific research reports, legal and medical guides, pleadings and briefs, policy analyses and recommendations, and other materials to inform and boost your work.