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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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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 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.