GLAAD AND COUNTER NARRATIVE PROJECT RESPONDS TO LEGISLATURE PASSAGE OF HIV DECRIMINALIZATION BILL IN GEORGIA

May 12, 2022

(Thursday, May 12, 2022) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the Georgia legislature’s passage of SB 164, a bill to modernize the state’s HIV laws. The bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Hufsteler (R-Rome) and supported by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-East Cobb) leading to nearly unanimous support in both the Senate (50-2) and House (124-40). 

The bill, which was signed by Governor Brian Kemp on Monday, May 9, requires prosecutors to prove that a person living with HIV had “intent to transmit” and posed a “significant risk based on scientifically supported levels of risk transmission.” The bill also eliminates penalties for people living with HIV who share needles, engage in sex work, donate blood, or spit at or use bodily fluids on police and correction officers. 

According to the CDC at least nine other states have modernized laws against HIV criminalization including California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virgina. 

Statement from Executive Director, Counter Narrative Project, Charles Stephens:
"This is a very heavy moment. There is certainly much to celebrate, certainly. And I am happy that the work that so many of us have been engaged in over the years, has led to the passage of this historic legislation.  But I also recognize that the fight for justice is not even close to being over. There is joy, but also extraordinary rage. That being said, I remain more than anything, truly grateful to be a part of the amazing movement of HIV advocates and organizers in Georgia who worked so very hard for this.”

Statement from GLAAD’s Regional Media Lead, U.S. South, Serena Sonoma
“With the passing of SB 164, Georgia residents living with HIV can rest a little easier and awareness can continue to expand on HIV as survivable, treatable and ultimately untransmittable. Most laws criminalizing people living with HIV do not reflect the incredible scientific advancements in treating HIV that makes the virus undetectable and therefore untransmittable, U=U. Reforming outdated laws is a key step in eliminating the misinformation and stigma that drives new infections. With an estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV who are often not seen, represented, or discussed, we must ensure every state in this nation has equal laws to end the decriminalization of HIV, fight discrimination against marginalized communities that restricts access to lifesaving medical care and treatment, and work together to end the HIV epidemic.” 

Research to include in your coverage:
 

  • People living with HIV today, when on effective treatment, lead long and healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV. Treating HIV can suppress the virus to the point it is no longer detected. When it is undetected, it is untransmittable, the key message of the U=U campaign.
  • Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. 13% of them don’t know it, reinforcing the need for HIV testing and to end stigma around HIV testing. 
  • People most vulnerable to HIV have limited access to transportation, housing, healthcare, and social support. 
  • Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses (43%), people living with HIV (42%), and the most deaths among people with HIV (44%) than any other racial and ethnic group in the U.S.
  • The CDC reports that the U.S. South experiences the greatest rates of HIV and lags behind in providing quality HIV prevention services and care. 
  • Medications like PrEP protect people who do not have HIV from contracting HIV. The CDC states that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed.

 

About Counter Narrative Project:
Counter Narrative Project (CNP) is an organization that stands in the tradition of Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, and other movement leaders, artists, organizers and visionaries committed to countering narratives and speaking truth to power.