HIV is not a Crime II, A National HIV Training Academy, will take place from May 17 to 20, 2016. It will occur in Huntsville, Ala. at the University of Alabama. This Academy plans to provide the skills to change HIV Criminalization laws.
The all-inclusive registration package costs $395. It covers registration, three nights lodging, and nine meals. Each registrant will have a private room in a suite of rooms in a dorm. As of April 12, 2016, 158 people have either registered or received scholarships. The Academy expects between 250 and 300 participants, but has capacity for 400. The Sero Project and other HIV organizations are organizing this event.
The Sero Project and other advocates have had some successes in changing these laws. As states have enacted almost all of the HIV criminalization laws, Tami Haught of The Sero Project argues that “these laws are going to have to be changed state by state.” In 2014, Iowa modernized its HIV criminalization laws.
In 2015, Tennessee reformed its “Aggravated Prostitution” Bill. Convicted sex workers with HIV can now have their names removed from the sex offender list. In Florida, state Senator Renee Garcia, R-Miami, has introduced a bill that would modernize Florida’s HIV criminalization laws.
At the Federal level, Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have cosponsored US Senate Bill S 2336, a bill to modernize HIV laws. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., has introduced a companion bill in the House, HR 1586.
Advocates need to increase their skills to increase these successes. Haught said that
The HIV Academy plans to increase the numbers and skills of advocates. She would like people to “start campaigns in every state with an HIV specific law.” The Academy has scheduled time for people to meet by state and form state work groups. Each state work group would identify allies and develop a strategic plan tailored to that state. In addition, the people in this group would identify the relevant actions that they will take upon their return from The Academy. The Sero Project plans to assist these state work groups throughout the year.
The Academy will focus on HIV criminalization laws in the South, because the epidemic is concentrated in this region. The South also has a concentration of HIV specific laws. The former Confederate states have an average of 1.9 HIV specific laws per state. The rest of the US has an average of 1.3 HIV specific laws. At four HIV specific laws each, Florida and Nevada are tied for the state with the third highest number of HIV specific laws.
According to Haught, The Academy will focus on “understanding and defending the rights of sex workers, immigrants,” and other over-criminalized populations. Haught reported that The Academy would focus on “how race, sexuality, and gender identity impacts HIV criminalization.” Workshops at the Academy will include leadership development and communication. The academy has prioritized empowering people living with HIV/AIDS and their allies. Haught feels that if people talk about how these laws affect their lives, it can “make a difference in the movement and in the campaign.”
Haught had a message for Florida with its high rates of new HIV cases. She welcomed and urged people from Florida to attend The Training Academy. At the Academy, participants can obtain the resources needed to change Florida’s HIV specific laws. She hopes to see a large delegation from Florida.
To register for the conference, please visit HIVisNotACrime.com
The Academy may live-stream its plenaries. For updates on this and other information, please visit HIVisNotACrime.com
To find out more information on HIV criminalization, please visit the Sero Project at SeroProject.com.