Published March, 2016

The PJP Update - March 2016



State Advocacy Updates   
Criminal Case Update   
Calling All True Believers!

Landmark Statement from State Prosecutor Calls for Modernization of HIV Criminal Law in Illinois

In the first statement of its kind, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez calls for further modernization of Illinois' HIV criminal and national guidelines to limit HIV-related prosecutions under current laws. Alvarez is an inaugural member of CHLP's National Prosecutor's Roundtable on HIV Law and Policy, a joint project with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. The State Attorney's office recently forwarded their response to a question from the Windy City Times on her position on HIV criminalization. To read the full statement, see: Influential State’s Attorney Weighs in on Decriminalizing HIV in Illinois

State Advocacy Working Group Updates


Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform hopes to have a bill introduced in this session of the legislature. If that does not happen, they will work together on an education and outreach strategy to be ready for the 2017 session.  

They will hold a community forum in March to address issues of criminalization of sex workers, the most affected group in California. As soon as we know a date, we'll email the PJP membership and post to the PJP Facebook group.   

Be on the lookout for an upcoming sign on letter to join their coalition. If you are interested in joining Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform, please contact Craig Pulsipher at[email protected].


Members of The CO Mod Squad worked very hard to draft a bill that repeals the criminal laws and moves HIV to the STI codes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hosted several community forums with Barb Cardell, Kari Hartel, and Arthur Powers to discuss the changes to the law. SN 146 was introduced in the Colorado General Assembly by Senator Pat Steadman and had a first reading in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, March 16. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, who will introduce it in the House, if it makes it through the Senate. Congratulations to the Mod Squad CO!  

Next meeting is Tuesday, March 29 from 6:00-8:00pm (MT). (Meetings are the 4th Tuesday of the month.)  

If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Colorado working group, please contact Barb Cardell at [email protected].

The Georgia Working Group has decided to introduce a bill for modernizing their HIV criminalization laws in 2017. At the February meeting, members began planning for a face-to-face meeting the first week of May to plan their statewide campaign. This will include building a plan and timeline for coalition building, additional educational events, policymaker and legislative outreach, and developing literature, media and legislative strategy. They will create a master calendar and begin to plan specific events and identify advocates who can commit to specific tasks. At the January and February meetings the group agreed to talking points that can be tailored for individual audiences.

Next Meeting: April 13 at 4:00pm (ET)  

If you would like information on HIV Criminalization or are interested in becoming an advocate with the Georgia HIV Criminalization Working Group, please contact Stephen Williams at [email protected]


In mid-February, CHLP Executive Director Catherine Hanssens traveled to Baton Rouge to participate in the Louisiana Health Public Health Institute's Stigma Summit, a well-attended gathering of thoughtful Louisianans from a wide range of backgrounds and organizations.  Following that, Catherine represented CHLP at a meetiWomen with a Visionng organized by Sero, with special shout-outs to Deputy Director Robert Suttle and superb moderator Laura McTigue, who pulled the post-summit meeting together. Under Laura's facilitation, Louisiana ended the day with people, including Dorian Alexander, Shaquita Borden, Gina Brown, Chip Eakins, Darnell Ferrell, Olivia Ford, Deon Haywood, Darlene Robertson, and Nia Weeks, to name a few, committed to research, outreach, communication and more. Pictured are (l-r) Nakita Shavers, Shaquita Borden, Deon Haywood, S. Madisa Moore-O'Neal and Nia Weeks.  

Members of the Ohio Working Group have been having substantive discussions about what changes they would like to see in their Ohio laws. They are learning how complex this process can be -- how the legal meaning of common words can be very different than they are in daily usage, and how many different ways there are to see the same issue. Their respectful discussion and patience with the process is greatly appreciated. They will continue this conversation in March.  

Next Meeting: Monday, April 11 at 4:30pm (ET).  

If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Ohio working group, please contact Stephen Williams at [email protected].

At the January meeting, working group members reached consensus on the specific changes they want to make in the Tennessee laws. They have asked Mayo Schreiber, CHLP Deputy Director, to put these changes into cohesive language to share with others as they do outreach and education. On the next call they will create talking points and use those along with the proposed changes to the law in discussions with individuals and groups at the Ryan White Planning Council meeting and the TAPWA meeting in March. The group continues to identify other agencies and individuals to engage in the process.  

Jamie Young & Rachel Brooks discussed their concern about increased police activity, arresting people for aggravated prostitution in Shelby County. Lauren will work with them, Scotty & Mayo to set up a separate call to discuss strategies for community response.  

Scotty Campbell, Director of Public Policy of Nashville Cares, continues having conversations around the state with individuals and agencies about modernizing the laws. At the next meeting, in addition to discussing feedback from CHLP, the group will brainstorm on others who should be included in these conversations, including key individuals, organizations, legislators, and policy makers, and a timeline for reaching out to them.  

Next Meeting: Thursday, March 24 at 11:00am (CT)    

If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Tennessee working group, please contact Stephen Williams at [email protected].

An HIV Criminalization working group recently formed in Texas, holding its first official meetings in early 2016. 

Since formation, group membership has more than doubled with some individuals affiliated with the following organizations from Austin, Dallas, and Houston areas:

      1. ACLU-Texas

      2. AIDS Arms

      3. End AIDS Now

      4. Legacy Community Health

      5. Office of Pub. Defender

      6. Ryan White Planning Council  

The group currently is focused on developing consensus on message and goals, while planning strategic first steps to confront the TX assault statutes wrongfully used to arrest, prosecute, and convict PLWH.  

It's is an exciting time as this growing group of Texas advocates has real passion to advocate for the marginalized and a deep hunger for effective, long-lasting change in Texas.  

Next meeting: Friday, April 15 at 1:00 PM (CT)  

If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Texas working group, please contact Stephen Williams at [email protected].  

CHLP's Lauren Fanning is organizing advocates in her home state of Washington to renew modernization efforts for the next legislative session. She is talking to advocates previously involved and inviting some new folks to the table. The plan is to work with the Dept of Health, HIV Planning Steering Committee (which is responsible for overseeing the End AIDS Washington plan) and community stakeholders over the course of 2016 to introduce a bill in 2017. A component of the End AIDS Washington plan identifies the legislature to modernize HIV criminalization laws. It is hoped that leveraging these relationships will strengthen the process.  

The first meeting was held March 15.  

If you are interested in information about HIV criminalization or actively participating in the Washington working group, please contact Lauren Fanning at[email protected].  

CHLP assists criminal defense attorneys in HIV exposure/transmission cases. We are providing help in cases in a number of states across the country. Among the cases we currently are involved in are the Michael Johnson and Shyteek Johnson cases in Missouri and New York, and a case in Ohio. 

With generous pro bono assistance from the Gibbons PC law firm, CHLP with other national and state HIV/medical and racial justice organizations, will be submitting a motion for leave to file an amicus curiae brief in the appeal of Michael Johnson’s conviction to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern Division. The brief will argue a number of important issues, including that the sentence of 31½ years is cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, because it is so grossly disproportionate to the offense, due to the change in life expectancy and quality of life for those living with HIV.  
With similar pro bono assistance from the law firm of Clifford Chance US LLP, CHLP, along with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors; Jeffrey Birnbaum, M.D.; Neal Rzepkowski, M.D., filed a motion for leave to file an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department in the case of Shyteek Johnson (a/k/a Nushawn Williams). Mr. Johnson was indefinitely civilly committed under Article 10 of the New York State Mental Hygiene Law after fully completing his criminal sentences. The motion was opposed by the Attorney General of the State of New York. A decision on the motion should be made in the coming week. Among the issues argued will be that an individual’s positive HIV status cannot form the basis for the determination that that person is a dangerous sex offender warranting indefinite commitment.  
The case in Ohio involves a young woman who has been wrongly and unjustly charged with two counts of felonious assault for allegedly not disclosing her HIV positive status to a sexual partner. The case is being prosecuted in the same court that sentenced Virginia Davis, also a young woman convicted of similar charges (who had a low or undetectable viral load and did not transmit HIV to the complainants), to seven years incarceration. The prosecutor in that case had recommended four to six years.  
Our assistance includes counseling defendants and their families, Identifying criminal defense attorneys for defendants, providing legal and trial strategy advice and HIV-specific resources to defense attorneys, identifying and working with medical and scientific experts, drafting sections of court submissions, and submitting amicus briefs.   
If you are aware of anyone charged in an HIV exposure or transmission case, please refer them to our website, and/or have them or their lawyer contact CHLP (212-430-6733) for assistance.


Calling All True Believers! Take Action!