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Ohio Health Modernization Movement Champions HIV Law Reform Bill at Ohio Statehouse

 

COLUMBUS, OH — Today, led by the Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), a coalition of advocacy groups and community leaders including prominent healthcare professionals and advocates, convened at the Ohio Statehouse to support the passage of House Bill 498 (HB498) and House Bill 513 (HB513). These legislative measures aim to update and eliminate discriminatory laws that disproportionately affect people living with HIV.

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Ohio Health Modernization Movement Demands Urgent Legal Reforms In Light Of A Report Exposing Deep-Rooted Injustices In HIV Criminalization Laws

 

COLUMBUS, OH – The Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), in collaboration with Equality Ohio Education Fund, unveiled a pivotal research report titled “The Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio: An In-Depth Analysis.” This report, covering data from 2014-2020 across Ohio’s 88 counties, shines a light on the systemic injustices and biases inherent in the state’s HIV criminalization laws.

 

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The Fight to Decriminalize HIV Status in Ohio

Kim Welter (she/her) of Equality Ohio and Randle Moore (he/him) of Equitas Health sat down to talk about OHMM and the work to decriminalize HIV status in Ohio.

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Driving Change in Ohio: Advocates Rally for Groundbreaking HIV Law Reforms at Statehouse

COLUMBUS, OH — Today, led by the Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), a coalition of advocacy groups and community leaders including prominent healthcare professionals and advocates, convened at the Ohio Statehouse to support the passage of House Bill 498 (HB498) and House Bill 513 (HB513). These legislative measures aim to update and eliminate discriminatory laws that disproportionately affect people living with HIV.

Repealing Outdated Penalties: The Case of HB498

House Bill 498, introduced by Rep. Sara Carruthers, seeks to repeal section 2927.13 of the Revised Code in Ohio, which unjustly penalizes individuals with HIV who attempt to donate blood or plasma. Tracy Jones, Executive Director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC), expressed strong support: “HB498 aims to decriminalize blood donation by individuals living with HIV, removing outdated punitive measures that unfairly target those living with HIV/AIDS. The current law serves no practical purpose for protecting the blood supply, as every donation is rigorously screened for HIV.”

Caracole has also voiced approval, emphasizing the need for scientifically informed policies. “Laws that criminalize HIV are based on an outdated understanding of HIV and only help to further stigma. We at Caracole welcome this progress and look forward to further action and reduced HIV stigma,” stated Caracole.

 

Expert Voices: Medical and Advocacy Insights
 

The event featured influential speakers, including Dr. Ashley Lipps from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Dr. Olivia Nathan, PharmD, MPH, AHHIVP, who discussed the crucial intersection of healthcare policy and HIV care.

Nate Albright, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, AAHIVS, Director-At-Large of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, emphasized the healthcare perspective: “It is crucial for Ohio lawmakers to recognize that HIV is not a crime; it is a health condition that requires the supportive network of health care professionals across the state dedicated to ending the HIV epidemic.”

HIV advocates Randle Moore and Bryan Jones, members of the OHMM Steering Committee, shared their personal stories and the detrimental impacts of current laws on those living with HIV, highlighting the critical need for legislative reform.

Broader Legal Reforms

The Impact of HB513 House Bill 513 addresses broader issues within the HIV law statutes advocating for more equitable and just legal frameworks.

Dr. Rhea Debussy, Director of External Affairs at Equitas Health, underscored the significance of these bills: “HIV criminalization laws are informed by stigma, not science. The introduction of HB 498 and HB 513 is an important step towards modernizing Ohio Revised Code. In our state, HIV criminalization laws are disproportionately used against women and Black Ohioans. Modernizing our laws will help to address the inequity and stigma facing people living with HIV here in Ohio.”

A Call to Action: Mini-Lobby Day and Advocacy Resources

Today’s Mini-Lobby Day featured direct engagements with legislators, driven by a diverse group of healthcare professionals, people living with HIV, and advocates, all rallying under OHMM’s leadership for systemic change.

Advocates are encouraged to stay informed and engaged. Educational resources, including a tutorial on effectively advocating for HB498, are available on the coalition’s website. Detailed information about the legislative process and updates on the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee’s review of HB498 can also be found online.

“This is a pivotal moment in our ongoing fight for justice and equality. Our community deserves laws that protect, not harm. Your support is crucial in this journey towards more just and equitable legislation. The safety of the blood supply will not be compromised. People living with HIV will remain ineligible for blood donation and the blood supply will continue to be rigorously screened for potential blood borne pathogens including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. OHMM stated.

For more information or to support these efforts, please visit www.ohmodernizenow.org

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www.ohmodernizenow.org 614-224-0400

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About OHMM: At OHMM, Our 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.

About Caracole: Caracole is an AIDS service organization providing comprehensive HIV prevention, housing and case management services.

About Equitas Health: Equitas Health is a nonprofit community healthcare system founded in 1984. We are one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS-serving organizations, serving tens of thousands of patients in Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

About AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland: Established in 1983, The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (ATGC) stands as Ohio’s premier and most extensive AIDS Service Organization (ASO). Each year, ATGC delivers crucial social and medical services to nearly 1,000 individuals living with HIV, while also offering prevention services to more than 25,000 people at the highest risk of contracting the virus responsible for AIDS.

In-Depth Analysis Exposes Systemic Flaws and Calls for Urgent Legal Reforms in Ohio

COLUMBUS, OH – Today, on HIV Is Not a Crime Day, the Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM), in collaboration with Equality Ohio Education Fund, unveiled a pivotal research report titled “The Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio: An In-Depth Analysis.” This report, covering data from 2014-2020 across Ohio’s 88 counties, shines a light on the systemic injustices and biases inherent in the state’s HIV criminalization laws.

Key Findings and Concerns:

  1. Over 200 Ohioans have been criminalized for having HIV
  2. Geographic and Racial Disparities: The enforcement of these laws shows significant geographic and racial disparities. Notably, with just 10.5% of Ohio’s population, Cuyahoga County accounts for over a quarter of all cases. Furthermore, Black Ohioans are disproportionately affected, highlighting a clear racial bias.
  3. Public Health Implications: By fostering stigma and fear around HIV, these laws undermine public health efforts, deterring individuals from seeking necessary testing or treatment.

Advocacy for Urgent Legal Reforms:

OHMM, backed by compelling evidence, calls for a comprehensive overhaul of Ohio’s HIV criminalization statutes, advocating for laws that align with scientific understanding and promote public health and justice. The proposed reforms include:

  • Decriminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure, Exposure, and Transmission: To move away from treating HIV as a criminal issue and instead view it as a manageable medical condition.
  • Update Laws Based on Scientific Advances: Reflecting the U=U principle, where undetectable viral loads mean the virus is untransmittable.
  • Abolishment of Mandatory HIV Testing for Certain Offenses: Arguing against discriminatory and stigmatizing practices.
  • Proportional Penalties and Anti-Discrimination Protections: Ensuring fair legal treatment and safeguarding against employment, healthcare, and housing discrimination.

Illustrative Case Studies:

The report includes striking examples, such as the disproportionate likelihood of a Black man in Cuyahoga County facing charges under these laws compared to a white counterpart. The data shows that though only 12.5% of Ohioans identified as Black in the 2020 census, over 35% of people charged under Ohio’s HIV statutes were identified as Black, and over 28% of all cases in Ohio were charged against Black men.

Steering Committee Insights:

Bryan Jones, Steering Committee Member of OHMM, stated, “This report unveils the unsettling reality of HIV criminalization in Ohio. The disproportionate impact on the Black community underlines the urgent need for legal reform and greater public awareness.”

Naimah O’Neal, another prominent member of the OHMM Steering Committee, added, “The findings of this report are a call to action. We must dismantle these outdated laws that not only perpetuate stigma but also disproportionately affect marginalized communities.”

Kate Mozynski, Senior Staff Attorney at Equality Ohio and one of the report’s primary authors emphasized, “Each number in this report represents an individual enduring the harsh consequences of archaic laws. It’s time Ohio’s legislation reflects the current scientific understanding of HIV transmission and acquisition.”

Ohio joins several states with laws that criminalize individuals based on their HIV status, often for activities posing minimal or no risk of HIV transmission. There is a growing movement within Ohio and across the nation advocating for the modernization of these laws to align with current scientific knowledge about HIV. To learn more, visit www.ohmodernizenow.org

Meanwhile in California:

Today, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law also released a separate report on the legal and legislative history of HIV criminalization in Ohio and key trends in the broad enforcement of the state’s HIV-related criminal laws. While different in scope, their report similarly shows a disproportionate impact of HIV criminalization on women and Black Ohioans and a high concentration of enforcement in Cuyahoga County and other counties.

Read the report [LINK HERE]

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About OHMM: At OHMM, Our 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.

About Equality Ohio: Equality Ohio identifies and transforms systems and institutions so LGBTQ+ Ohioans can fully access legal and lived equality.



HIV is not a crime Awareness Day observed on February 28th

Rep. Liston files resolution to recognize December 1 as World AIDS Day in Ohio

The Ohio Health Modernization Movement (OHMM) is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in Ohio. On April 6, OHMM sent a letter to officials to officials in every Ohio county––including sheriffs, prosecutors and judges.

These are the asks:

  • Non-violent individuals at risk of harm from COVID-19 should be released. Incarcerated populations should be lowered by releasing pre-trial detainees, administrative detainees, cease arrests for breaking old, outdated laws that criminalize people living with HIV.
  • Immediate release of all non-violent individuals at higher risk of harm from COVID-19 infection, including people over 60, and those with underlying health conditions that infectious disease experts say increase their risk, e.g., lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a compromised immune system;
  • Rapidly decrease incarcerated populations by releasing people detained pre-trial, people detained for administrative reasons including failure to appear or parole violations, and people serving a sentence of a year or less; and
  • Cease arrests for offenses outlined in Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.11(B)(1), Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.24, Ohio Rev. Code § 241, Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.25, Ohio Rev. Code § 2921.38, and Ohio Rev. Code § 2929.14 that rely on an individual’s HIV status as proof of intent to harm, as well as all low level offenses.

Signers:

CANAPICaracole Inc.
Equality OhioEquitas Health
William Booth, Miami Valley Positives for PositivesThe AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland
The “DIRT “Advocacy MovementThe Sankofa Initiative
We Think 4 a ChangeGraig Cote
Olga Irwin, Positive Women’s NetworkGina Jakeway
Bryan C. Jones, HIV advocate/activistJerry Mallicoat, Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton
Naimah O’Neal, Lateefah’s Haven 
FEATURED OP-ED's IN THE LOCAL PAPERS

MODERNIZING HIV LAWS TOGETHER

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DAYTON DAILY NEWS

VOICES: HIV diagnosis still brings stigma, legal complications

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COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Doctors Carlos Malvestutto and Michael Para say anti-science Ohio laws perpetuate fear, sending innocent people with HIV to jail.

For the good of all of us, it is time we modernize HIV laws, writes Infectious disease expert, Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum.

Let’s end the HIV epidemic urges Dr, Yasmin Bradley in the Courier. What does HIV in Ohio look like today? The present looks far better than the past.

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AKRON BEACON JOURNAL

Kent woman, Kimberley Gantz, living with HIV for 18 years urges updates to Ohio laws. She tested positive for HIV thanks to a man she dated.

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Ohio law codifies fear, discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS argues Graig Cote, a person living with HIV/AIDS in Columbus. He has been an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years.

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Ohio HIV Laws must catch up with science and society say Drs. Barbara Gripshover and Ann Avery,  infectious disease specialists in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER EDITORIAL

Medical advances and increasingly affordable medications can now make HIV-positive individuals nontransmissable — if they know their status and seek treatment writes the Editorial Board of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer

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Naimah O’Neal has lived with HIV for 30 years. She was diagnosed in 1992 at the age of 29.

 

She believes she either got the virus from her husband, who was using substances, or from receiving blood after she broke her arm in her 20s.

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Doctors: Anti-science Ohio laws perpetuate fear, sending innocent people with HIV to jail

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DisruptNow Podcast’s Rob Richardson talks with Infectious disease expert, Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum about how fear drives modern HIV Laws in Ohio and why current HIV Laws are against the public health Interest.