ACT UP Protests HIV Transmission Laws At New York Pride

On Sunday, millions will bask in the great gay glow that is New York Pride. But at least one parade contingent won’t be so chipper: ACT UP is joining local activist group Queerocracy to raise awareness about HIV transmission laws, which criminalize not disclosing one’s HIV+ status before engaging in sex.

The laws, in effect in 34 states and two U.S. territories, have been used to imprison people who used condoms, had undetectable viral loads and didn’t actually transmit the virus—based solely on the allegation they didn’t tell their partner they were positive. (Spitting and biting have also resulted in criminal convictions and stiff sentences.) “People with HIV are being prosecuted based on ignorance and bigotry,”  says Queerocracy’s Megan Mulholland. “These laws create a ‘viral underclass’ in the law and do not take contemporary science into consideration.”

Marchers, who will don prison stripes and orange jumpsuits, hope to get paradegoers to encourage Congress to support the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act, which would push states to amend their current transmission statutes.  Says ACT UP founding member Eric Sawyer, “HIV criminalization laws were supposedly created to prevent the transmission of HIV, but they’re actually doing the opposite.  They drive people away from HIV testing, since knowing your status can subject you to criminal prosecution.”