Media-driven stigma continues with new HIV criminalization case

Published: November 10, 2014

Original Article:

Despite the immense progress made in the battle to destigmatize HIV and end HIV criminalization laws, the mainstream media is failing to catch up and join the fight. In some cases, the media’s coverage of HIV criminalization becomes the source of stigma.

A new case under an outdated HIV criminalization law in Illinois demonstrates the media’s inability to handle sensitive information. But it also complicates the public health sector’s efforts to destigmatize HIV among vulnerable communities.

According to a republished police press release, a 25-year-old man was arrested at his place of employment in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood based on accusations of not disclosing his HIV-status while “engaging in intimate contact” without protection. Not much more information is available in news outlets.

With the lack of reporting, questions and gaps come to mind: What sort of “intimate” contact were they engaging in? Is the accused on HIV treatment and is his viral load undetectable? Is there an actual transmission of HIV?

While those unanswered questions loom, a story published on the website of HIV news source HIVPlus fills in many disturbing details about the case missed by the mainstream media. These include the controversial use of investigative alerts in the arrest, as well as details of gross mistreatment of people living with HIV (PLHIV) while being held in custody.

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