January 21, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

How Criminal Laws Target People Living With HIV

CHART1
HIV criminalization rates both in California and nationally may be much higher than currently estimated, according to data that UCLA’s Williams Institute obtained from the California Department of Justice.

BY AMIRA HASENBUSH & AYAKO MIYASHITA  |  In the current political climate, it’s almost impossible not to think about the criminal justice system – whether it protects and serves, how it helps or harms our communities, and whether justice is being delivered equitably and fairly. These conversations lead to examination of every step of the system – stop and frisk, arrests to convictions, sentencing and re-entry. But what do you do when laws have the specific and stated purpose to target a specific population? In California, there are four such laws that apply to people living with HIV (PLWH). These laws criminalize otherwise legal conduct or increase penalties for criminal offenses based on a person’s HIV-positive status. There has been a growing consensus that laws that single out HIV and treat HIV differently from other communicable diseases add to the already heavy burden of stigma that HIV carries.

HIV criminalization rates both in California and nationally may be much higher than currently estimated, according to data that the Williams Institute obtained from the California Department of Justice. California is generally known as a state that rarely utilizes its HIV criminal laws, and previous estimates identified only a handful of individuals coming into contact with the criminal justice system on the basis of their HIV-positive status. It came as a big surprise when we found that 800 people had been involved in 1,263 HIV-related criminal incidents from the time these laws were passed in 1988 through June 2014.

Across the state, Los Angeles was the largest enforcer of HIV-related criminal laws: 48 percent of HIV-specific criminal incidents occurred in Los Angeles County, while only 37 percent of PLWH in California have lived in the county. Throughout California, 95 percent of those HIV-related criminal incidents were under a state law that makes it a felony to solicit for sex work while HIV-positive – a statute that does not require intent to transmit HIV, actual transmission or even exposure to HIV in order to prosecute. Nearly every incident that led to HIV-specific criminal charges – 389 out of 390 incidents – ended in conviction, and 91 percent of those convicted were sent to prison or jail for an average of over two years.

The biggest revelation was the prosecution rates under these laws.  Across all HIV-related crimes, white men were significantly more likely to be released and not charged whereas black men, black women and white women were significantly less likely to be released and not charged. 

CHART2

These disparities were even starker among individuals assumed to be engaged in sex work under the solicitation while HIV-positive statute. White men were not charged in 70 percent of cases, while all others were not charged in 42 percent of cases.

When we talk about these figures, we are talking about people.  Criminalization in any form can change the course of a person’s life.  But the application of HIV criminal laws is yet another additional burden placed upon individuals living with HIV.  To the degree that these data suggest an unequal application of justice, we must ask ourselves – are these laws fair or are they merely steeped in fear?  Do they protect and serve, help or harm our communities?  Is justice being delivered here?   Our research does not provide us with all the answers to these questions.  But we can say that just like the rest of the criminal justice system, under HIV criminalization laws, certain communities bear more weight of the penal code than others. 

  Amira Hasenbush is the Jim Kepner Law and Policy Fellow and Ayako Miyashita is the Brian Belt HIV Law & Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

in AIDS, NEWS
Related Posts

Sarah McBride Now Highest Ranking Trans Official – E.P.I.C Pride Show, January, 20th, 2021

January 20, 2021

January 20, 2021

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture. *Sarah McBride Now Highest Ranking Trans...

Missing Compton Trans-man

January 18, 2021

January 18, 2021

UPDATE: Luckie Alexander Fuller has been found as on Jan. 19th, 2021. Luckie Alexander Fuller, a local Los Angeles transman...

WeHo Fighting Climate Change

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is currently updating its Climate Action Plan — an effort called “WeHo Climate Action” —...

The Center Offered Free Meals For Those In Need

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

With the unemployment rate in Los Angeles County rising due to the Corona-virus pandemic many are struggling to make ends...

Two New Council Members Sworn-In To The City Council Of WeHo

December 20, 2020

December 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has sworn-in two newly elected Councilmembers: Sepi Shyne and John M. Erickson. Each Councilmember took...

L.A. Makeup Artist Is First Trans Man To Compete On “RuPauls Drag Race”

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The cast of RuPauls Drag Race Season 13 has been announced this week revealing its first trans man contestant will...

Weho Celebrates 30th Annual Toy And Food Drive

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The 30th Annual West Hollywood Toy and Food Drive will be accepting monetary donations until Friday, Dec. 18th, 2020 with...

The Center Long Beach Brings Diversity To The Board

December 13, 2020

December 13, 2020

The Center Long Beach has announced the addition of three new members to the board of directors: Long Beach business...

PIQUE Health – Specialized Treatment Plans to Optimize Male Health

December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020

Beverly Hills-based practice helping men come up with a plan to fully optimize their health Now more than ever, amid...

Local LA Teen Named Member Of HRC Foundation Youth Ambassadors

December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

The Human Rights Campaign have announced that Nico Craig, an 18-year-old DJ and music producer from Los Angeles, has been...

Real Housewives Star Comes Out As A Lesbian

December 10, 2020

December 10, 2020

Braunwyn Windham-Burke star of Real Housewives of Orange County has come out as a lesbian.  In an interview with GLAAD...

LGBTQ Latinx Bar Noa Noa Place Opens

December 6, 2020

December 6, 2020

Noa Noa Place, a new bar dedicated full time to the LGBTQ Latinx community, has opened in Boyle Heights.  As...

Wet For Her The Perfect Gift For Your Lover

December 6, 2020

December 6, 2020

Wet For Her is an online retailer designed specifically for lesbian and queer communities offering a new approach to sex...

The Facts And Health Benefits Of Masturbation

December 5, 2020

December 5, 2020

We know about the pleasures associated with masturbation, but are there health benefits of masturbation related to it as well?...

World AIDS Day

December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

World AIDS Day, designated on Dec.1st each year, was first observed in 1988.  This year, similar to previous years, organizations...