A Culture of Shame

Media can also hyper-focus and sensationalize negative stories of people living with HIV, to the detriment of public health and efforts to decrease and defeat stigma.

People living with HIV now live full lifespans, but the media has failed to create dynamic characterizations that transcend one-dimensional victimhood, or criminality. Black and Latinx communities not only make up a significant portion of HIV cases in the United States, they continue to suffer rampant criminalization.

The CDC says state laws against people living with HIV, many created in the early days of the epidemic when far less was known about the virus and before treatments were developed, are now outdated.

State laws criminalizing HIV exposure do not reflect current research and advancements to prevent HIV transmission.

37 states have laws that criminalize HIV transmission. In the past two years, multiple individuals have been incarcerated in states like Tennessee for not disclosing their status. Research consistently shows that Black gay men report the highest rates of stigma in states with strict and outdated HIV criminalization laws [5]. HIV/AIDS criminalization intersects with structural racism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia [8]. An unequal application of disclosure laws across race reveals how these laws continue to prove that punishment is not a public health intervention and can actually worsen the stigma that fuels new infections.