On June 18th, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) launched their national HIV is Not a Crime initiative, focused on modernizing HIV-specific laws across the country. This initiative is in partnership with The Counter Narrative Project, Positive Women’s Network, The Sero Project, Transgender Law Center, the US People Living with HIV Caucus, and Gilead Sciences, Inc.
To kick things off, ETAF organized and hosted a community town hall panel discussion on June 25th. The panel featured Cecelia Chung, Director of Evaluation and Strategic Initiatives at the Transgender Law Center; Robert Suttle, an independent educator formerly of the SERO Project; Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California; and Douglas Brooks, Executive Director of Community Engagement at Gilead Sciences, Inc. The discussion highlighted how racism, transphobia, and over policing all result in extreme disparities when it comes to accessing HIV testing and linkage to care, and how criminalizing HIV is the last thing we should be doing to reduce these disparities. Click here to view the discussion (skip ahead to the 55:08 mark).
Looking ahead at the direction of the initiative, ETAF has announced they will support our local efforts in Missouri to modernize our HIV-specific criminal statutes. Other focus areas across the country include fighting insurance discrimination in California, and the introduction of modernization legislation in Nevada and Ohio. The Missouri HIV Justice Coalition is extremely honored and excited to be included in this initiative, and we look forward to working with the ETAF team!
By Molly Pearson