Obama Administration Releases AIDS Strategy With Important Anti-Discrimination Policies

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org
Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829; media@aclu.org

Obama Administration Releases AIDS Strategy With Important Anti-Discrimination Policies

WASHINGTON - In
a critical acknowledgment of the discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS,
the Obama administration today, in its newly released strategy,
emphasized the government’s responsibility to enforce nondiscrimination
laws and made clear that education about the transmission of HIV is
crucial to fighting the stigma that many living with HIV face. The
administration’s strategy is aimed at reducing HIV infections,
redirecting resources to alleviate health disparities of those infected
with HIV and increasing the accessibility and quality of health care.

 
“The
Obama administration deserves credit for introducing this strategy to
combat HIV and AIDS and for recognizing that HIV/AIDS is not only a
public health issue, but also a civil rights issue,” said Laura W.
Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
“Unfortunately, in this country and around the world, there remains a
huge information gap about the true facts of HIV, and many living with
the disease face unwarranted discrimination every day. Fighting
discrimination is a crucial part of any strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.”
 
The
new strategy reaffirms the need for evidence-based HIV prevention
approaches, including condom distribution and needle exchange programs.
The strategy also recognizes that HIV impacts different communities
differently and specifically urges that resources be redirected to
address the fact that many communities, including gay and bisexual men,
transgender people and African-Americans, have a much higher mortality
rate from AIDS. While the administration’s strategy contains many
important and positive initiatives, it does fail to address the
continued problem of inadequate funding and scarce resources to fight
HIV/AIDS.
 
The
administration’s strategy correctly calls on states to end
counterproductive laws that criminalize behavior by people living with
HIV, and urges states to reconsider laws that criminalize consensual
sexual activity by those living with the disease. There are currently
32 states with these kinds of laws on the books, including criminal
laws that single out people with HIV for spitting or biting, despite
the fact that HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva.
"We are pleased that the administration has recognized that
discrimination and stigma continue to be real barriers in the fight
against HIV/AIDS, and that resources must be directed to the vulnerable
groups who need it most," said Rose Saxe, Senior Staff Attorney with
the ACLU AIDS Project. "The fight to end discrimination and improve
public education has a long way to go, but this is an important step."
Much
of the discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS occurs in our nation’s
prisons, where HIV positive prisoners are sometimes segregated from the
greater prison population, forced to wear armbands declaring themselves
HIV positive and are frequently denied equal participation in prison
jobs, programs and re-entry opportunities that facilitate their
successful transition back into society. As the administration’s
strategy is implemented, the ACLU urges the administration to work to
eliminate these harmful and discriminatory practices.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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