Public health, law schools to host forum on HIV, criminal prosecutions

HIV criminalization refers to criminal statutes that apply only to people with HIV, and the sometimes heightened sentences people with the disease face in court. This is a topic of concern among public health organizations and HIV policy leaders.

In an effort to join the conversation, the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences and the UofL Louis D. Brandeis School of Law will host a free public forum Oct. 2 at the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness, 400 E. Gray St.

“The degree to which we as a community accept diversity goes a long way in determining our collective quality of life,” said UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences Dean Craig Blakely. “Part of the university’s mission is to provide teachable moments, and this forum provides an educational opportunity to stimulate discussion about a complex topic that impacts subsets of our community differently.”

Kentucky Department for Public Health HIV/AIDS Program Branch Manager Karen Sams and UofL law professor Samuel A. Marcosson will provide the health and legal context of this multi-faceted issue.

“Social justice is the cornerstone of our law school,” said Susan Duncan, Dean of the Brandeis School of Law. “That’s one of the reasons we are especially pleased to contribute to this important forum, and we want to do our part to help the public better understand what it means to be HIV positive.”

Speakers also will include organizers of the Sero Project, Sean Strub and Robert Suttle. Strub will discuss his perspective on HIV criminalization and why he advocates for reform, while Suttle will share his personal story of prosecution and incarceration on a nondisclosure charge in Louisiana. His story is portrayed in the short film HIV is Not a Crime, which will be shown the night of the forum.

LGBT Center Director and Assistant Provost for Diversity Brian Buford said Pride Week, UofL’s celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, is a great time to engage in these conversations.

“The idea that people with HIV can face criminal charges for how and when they disclose their status may come as a surprise to many, even some in the LGBT community—that is why it’s important to host a public dialogue. The awareness of threats can be the catalyst for improvement,” Buford said.

The forum begins with a reception at 5:30p.m., followed by presentations at 6 p.m. Other event partners are the UofL LGBT Center, the Graduate Program in Bioethics & Medical Humanities, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Fairness Campaign.

Source: UofL Today (September 26, 2013)