Beyond criminalization

Current Opinion in Hiv and Aids(2022)

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This paper reviews recent studies examining the application of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific criminal laws in North America (particularly the United States and Canada). In the wake of the development of new biomedical prevention strategies, many states in the United States (US) have recently begun to reform or repeal their HIV-specific laws. These findings can help inform efforts to 'modernize' HIV laws (or, to revise in ways that reflect recent scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention).Recent studies suggest that HIV-specific laws disproportionately impact Black men, white women, and Black women. The media sensationally covers criminal trials under these laws, especially when they involve Black defendants who they often describe in racialized terms as predators. Activists contest these laws and raise concerns about new phylogenetic HIV surveillance techniques that have the potential to be harnessed for law enforcement purposes.These findings collectively raise urgent concerns for the continued use of HIV-specific criminal laws. These policies disproportionately impact marginalized groups - particularly Black men. Media coverage of these cases often helps to spread misinformation and stigmatizing rhetoric about people living with HIV and promulgate racist stereotypes. Although well-intentioned, new phylogenetic HIV surveillance technologies have the potential to exacerbate these issues if law enforcement is able to gain access to these public health tools.
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