HIV Modernization is a top priority in this legislative session

View looking up in the dome in the capitol rotunda with the text Weekly Perspective in script overlaid in white lettering over a semi-transparent blue rectangle.

If you follow our work, you are likely aware that one of our policy priorities this year is to modernize Missouri’s outdated, medically inaccurate, stigmatizing HIV-specific criminal codes. You may remember a Weekly Perspective from the first week of February after an energizing committee hearing.

If you haven’t paid that close of attention because you feel like HIV doesn’t affect you, we need your attention now.

The beauty, the strength that we have as Empower Missouri is the breadth of the work we undertake, and the solidarity of our members who support each other. When a moment comes to mobilize to move an issue forward, you ALL answer the call. You are 4,000 Missourians strong. If you show up for your neighbors on the issue dear to them, and they show up on the issue dear to you, our collective voices ring much louder than if we each stood alone.

Now is one of those moments.

This week the House Health & Mental Health Policy Committee advanced an amended version of our bills, known as HCS HB 167 & 166. Follow closely because this gets a little complicated. We had hoped that the committee would negotiate a version that merged HB 166 with HB 167 into a version we could enthusiastically support. That did not happen.

The House Committee Substitute that recently passed through the Rules committee and is on the way to the House floor for debate and a vote has some glaring problems. Namely, HCS HB 167 & 166 retains felony level charges, too harsh a punishment for transmission of a manageable health condition. It also omits a vital section that precludes criminal liability in cases where PLHIV “take or attempt to take practical measures to prevent transmission.” Such practical measures would be anything that is “demonstrated scientifically to measurably limit or reduce the risk of transmission,” whether that is using a condom, taking medication, or other forms of prophylaxis. Click here to read the memo that our MO HIV Justice Coalition members delivered to HH&MHP committee members on our Advocacy Day April 9, that outlines some of our most pressing outstanding concerns.

This is where you come in. Many members of the House have an understanding of HIV that hasn’t been updated since the early 1990s because it has virtually dropped out of mainstream consciousness. They don’t know that a diagnosis does not equal a death sentence. They may be completely unaware that medical treatment for people living with HIV can cause the virus to be untransmittable. You, as their constituent, can reach them and educate them, and we have the tools to help you.

Click here to email your representative.

You can also call their office with this script.

I’m going to go ahead and thank you for taking this action today. I realize you’re a busy person with a full to-do-list. But I know you took the time to do this one quick thing to advocate for the well-being of ALL Missourians. To change the law and end the stigma of HIV. So, Thank You!

In Solidarity,

Ashley Quinn

Staff, MO HIV Justice Coalition

P.S. Go ahead and forward this to your friends and ask them to join you, post about it on Facebook and Twitter with this link, and if you want, email [email protected] to humblebrag about the good job you did today.

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