For the good of all of us, it is time we modernize HIV laws

Ohioans with HIV live in the shadow of an ugly legal relic of the 1990s. Back then, lawmakers responded to the HIV epidemic by passing laws that targeted people living with HIV with what we now know are unjust, unscientific and counterproductive laws.

Read Infectious disease expert, Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum’s op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Let's end the HIV epidemic

What does HIV in Ohio look like today? The present looks far better than the past. We’ve been living with HIV since the early 1980s. Back then, doctors raced to figure out what it was, and many people here and around the world died for lack of effective treatment.

Read Dr. Jasmine Bradley’s op-ed in The Courier.

Kent woman living with HIV for 18 years urges updates to Ohio laws

I’m a straight woman who tested positive for HIV thanks to a man I dated. It happened in 2003, after my previous boyfriend was sent to prison for 10 years.

Read Kimberly Glanz’s op-ed in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Ohio law codifies fear, discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS

Testing positive for HIV in the 1980s was a death sentence for nearly everyone. Most people died within two years of diagnosis.

I was diagnosed in 1986 and lived.

Graig Cote is a person living with HIV/AIDS in Columbus. He has been an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years.

 

Ohio HIV Laws must catch up with science and society

Ohioans with HIV live in the long shadow of an ugly legal relic of the 1990s. Ohio’s HIV-specific laws, first enacted in 1996, are unscientific, unproductive and unjust. It is time that these laws are modernized to reflect accurate science, good public health policy and justice for an unfairly stigmatized group of Ohio citizens.

Drs. Barbara Gripshover and Ann Avery are infectious disease specialists in Cleveland. Read their op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                Contact: Bob Driehaus   

Oct. 6, 2021

Free Virtual Film Premiere Unites Ohioans and Politicians to Combat Archaic State HIV Laws: Demonstrates need for change from perspective of lawmakers and people living with HIV

 

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM) is proud to announce the virtual world premiere of OHMM’s Video Shorts Series on October 8th at Noon EST. The series highlights the experiences of Ohioans living with HIV, as well as the social advocates and state leaders fighting to modernize Ohio’s outdated HIV criminalization laws. The current statutes allow people living with HIV (PLHIV) to be charged with a felony simply for sneezing, breathing, or dating. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure laws such as these do not curb transmission, but they do increase fear and diminish testing rates.

 

At Noon EST on Friday, viewers can watch the world premiere of the videos and participate in a live Zoom panel discussion with the video creators. Those unable to watch live can access all six videos after the event via our YouTube Channel. Each participant created a video independent from the other participants, but three specific themes emerged across the videos:

  • Ohio’s enforcement of outdated laws that don’t follow the science
  • HIV laws have been weaponized by members of the public
  • PLHIV are guilty of withholding status until proven innocent 

Film contributor Bryan C. Jones has lived with HIV for 38 years and experienced these problems firsthand. In his video, he said, “I’m as open…as anyone can be about their status, but I still sleep on eggshells; I still wait to hear that knock on the door.” 

 

Another film contributor and former Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Rick Hodges, shares in his video that “[HIV-AIDS] is like a chronic disease where people can live full and happy lives. There’s really no reason right now to treat AIDS any differently than you would treat any other infectious disease. By treating the diseases the same way, we’re treating people the same way.”

 

“The laws don’t add up. They were created during an era of fear and ignorance – when HIV was seen as a death sentence and many people thought a handshake or cough could spread the virus. Neither of those statements is true. We’re calling on all Ohioans to learn from the virtual short film festival; spread the word using #ModernizeNow and #HIVlaw2021; and push back against these draconian laws,” said Kim Welter, Facilitator, OHMM.

 

The six HIV and Modernization films were created by:

  • Bryan C. Jones, HIV activist
  • John Eklund, former Ohio State Senator
  • Rick Hodges, former Director of the Ohio Department of Health
  • Olga Irwin, Ohioan living with HIV
  • Francesca Schumann, Transgender advocate living with HIV
  • Kim Welter, Facilitator, OHMM 

Ohioans who want to join the fight against Ohio’s outdated HIV laws can share the films on social media using #ModernizeNow and #HIVlaw2021; and join the OHMM’s “I’m In” Campaign, which provides tools for energizing the community against the current laws and talking to government officials about modernizing them.

 

Resources

  • Homepage for HIV and Modernization virtual short film festival
  • Zoom link to Join HIV and Modernization virtual short film festival at noon EST on Oct. 8, 2021
  • Watch HIV and Modernization films after the festival
  • Overview of current Ohio HIV Laws
  • The Ohio Health Modernization Movement’s suggested changes to modernize Ohio’s HIV laws

 

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About Ohio Health Modernization Movement: The Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM) is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in Ohio. Its mission is to mobilize a broad coalition, including individuals and communities who are disproportionately impacted by HIV, to replace fear-based, stigmatizing laws that criminalize HIV-status with evidence-based, nondiscriminatory laws that protect public health. Organizations that are part of OHMM include AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, AHF Ohio, CANAPI, Caracole, Equality Ohio, Equitas Health, and the University of Toledo, College of Medicine.