Friday, December 18, 2015

Temporary hiatus, but we'll be back!





Photo credit: financial basis dot com

Hello friends! Advocacy Without Borders is taking a temporary hiatus for the next few months for some restructuring and reflection. This is NOT "so long" by any means; it's only a short-term "see you later." We will return in the late spring with more advocacy endeavors and updates; looking forward to communicating with all of you in the near future! Until then, take care and keep changing the world!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Meet 6 year old Jeremy Mardis, killed by police violence. And do something about it.

Last night I was in bed cuddling with my five year old son as he drifted off to sleep. He had a Mickey Mouse toy tightly clenched in one fist and a green marker top clenched in the other. As he grew more drowsy he arched his back and pressed the bottoms of his feet against me. His tongue moved to the left side of the inside of his cheek to rest as it often does when he is falling asleep - one of his favorite bedtime stims. I looked down at my beautiful, beloved, ausomely autistic child. And he reminded me so much of another ausomely autistic child. They looked nothing alike, but I couldn't help but think of him. 

Jeremy Mardis. He was a small boy with a radiant smile and glowing eyes to match. The autistic first grader had only attended his new school for a short while but seemed to be settling in. Now Jeremy, once full of life and full of breath like you and I, lives on only as a hashtag. He joins the ever-growing club that nobody wants to be part of: a victim of police violence. Jeremy, who was killed by some of the ~18 rounds of bullets Louisiana police officers fired into his father's car, did not live to tell the tale of what transpired; we only have body camera footage, Jeremy's father's witness statement, conflicting accounts from the officers present, and the pending autopsy results to rely upon. But one indisputable fact is clear: at age 6 years, Jeremy is the 17th US child under the age of 18 years old that has been killed by police officers this year. He is the 834th person to be killed in the US by police this year. And the year isn't over yet. He will not likely be the last.

Jeremy Mardis, age 6. Photo credit: independent.co.uk

Jeremy's death was completely avoidable. Though there is no technical policy for the police department in the jurisdiction where Jeremy died regarding shooting into a moving vehicle in pursuit of a fleeing target, it is illegal in a number of states and it is considered by several reputable law enforcement agencies to be an excessive use of force. The police screwed up.

Though seemingly he is not a candidate for a "Father of the Year" award, Jeremy's father, who was driving the vehicle that the officers were chasing (presumably in a high-speed traffic chase, though it is unclear exactly why)was unarmed in the vehicle, as was Jeremy. Rather than shoot out the tires of the car to stop Jeremy's father from continuing to flee, the officers instead opted to shoot into the car itself - causing Jeremy's tragic and unnecessary death. 

When a sweet, innocent, beautiful child loses their life in such a violent, senseless manner, it's often hard to know what to feel, think, or say. There are few words that can adequately describe an awful situation such as this. However, there are a few words that convey the situation perfectly. I'll share them below. 

Murder. 

The first word is murder. Jeremy was murdered. Had the officers acted responsibly in this case, Jeremy would not have been pummeled with bullets. There is a protocol for dealing with a suspect who evades arrest. None of that protocol justifies shooting into a moving vehicle, endangering the lives of not only known passengers of that vehicle, but also the lives on any unknown passengers and also the lives of passersby as well. Their poor judgment cost Jeremy his life. His blood is in their hands.

Accountability.

Second degree murder charges have been filed against two of the four officers present that day. It is unclear why charges were not filed against all of the officers. Similarly, in my opinion (from what I can glean at this time), Jeremy's father's actions were deplorable and cannot be excused. I'm a parent. My kids ride places with me all the time. I will put myself out there in the interest of transparency I'll admit to having had a warrant before. (Having pretty severe inattentive ADHD on top of being autistic, my executive functioning is not the greatest. If you forget to attend a scheduled court date, a warrant for your arrest is issued until you reschedule, pay the fine, or take care of the matter in some way.) The last thing I would do - or have done - when stopped by the police is embark upon a chase. Because even if no one was hurt in the chase, that would frighten my kids. It's better to stop and take the arrest. Better for your kids to have to wait at the police station for a relative/friend/trusted adult to retrieve them, or even for them to be picked ip temporarily by Children's Protective Services for a few hours due to your arrest than for your kids to be traumatized by being with you while you trying to run. Chances are you won't succeed at the attempt to flee and after you are eventually apprehended after running the kids will have to watch you get handcuffed and arrested anyway; why not minimize the damage if you can?

However, from the latest articles, there doesn't seem to be evidence that there was an active warrant out for Jeremy's father in the first place. So it is even more confusing what happened between him and the police to result in a chase. So many things went wrong, and it's unclear why. But one thing IS clear, and that is, as previously stated, the cops screwed up. And IMO Jeremy's father also screwed up. Majorly. Royally. Inexcusably. 

Hypocrisy. 

A beautiful six year old is dead. Yet it already seems like yesterday's news. WTH is up with that? As a mother, my heart breaks at the murder of someone's precious son. A young boy who was little more than a baby. Jeremy was only a year older than my youngest son. And like my son (and like me) he was autistic. We have lost one of our own. His autism diagnosis might have nothing to do with his death, but it had something to do with his life. It was part of who he was, part of how he perceived and responded to the world. We don't know who or what little Jeremy could have grown up to become had he had a chance to actually live out his life. One of our people has fallen. My skin might be the color of coffee and his skin might be the color of cream, but Jeremy was - is - my brother. Where is the outrage? Why doesn't Jeremy deserve nationwide vigils in his honor and to be remembered with love? I marched for the murders of Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, Jordan Baker, and so many others. Police violence hurts no matter what age. Aiyana Jones shouldn't have died; Kayleb Moon-Robinson shouldn't have been assaulted and handcuffed; the teen in McKinney, Texas shouldn't have been sat on; the teen in Spring Valley shouldn't have been assaulted; Jeremy Mardis shouldn't have been shot. Our children's lives cannot afford poor judgment and deadly "accidents." When is someone going to give Jeremy's life - and death - the attention it deserves? You don't have to be an adult, or a black person, or whatever stereotype people might conceive of, for police violence to hurt you. Murder doesn't discriminate. Ask the grieving family of (white) autistic David "Levi" Denham, or the grieving (white) family of James Dudley Barker, or the grieving (white) family of Ethan Saylor. Their families aren't comforted by the fact that their murdered loves ones had white skin. They want - and deserve - justice. 

I need to know that somebody in the disability community...somebody in the autistic community...more people from the anti-police violence activism community...somebody who is a freaking human being cares about the death of this child from our communities. Charges have been filed, and that's a good start. But it's not enough. Not even remotely enough. 

If Jeremy Mardis doesn't matter, then I sure as heck don't matter. And neither does autistic son nor my autistic daughter. I need to know Jeremy mattered, and matters. I need to believe that people still feel outrage when a child is unjustly killed, especially a child from my community. I need to know that even if it is not trendy or popular to care that people will care anyway. 

Will you join me in making contact with the Louisiana State Police (who is investigating the Marksville Police Department)? They need to know we are outraged. They need to know we are advocating for Jeremy to receive justice. They need to know that it is time for them to adopt an official policy banning excessive use of force and shooting into vehicles.

Please direct your concerns to Lieutenant JB Slaton (Public Information Officer, Louisiana State Police)

Phone: 225-925-6202

Thank you,
Morénike

(Because it's that important, this post is also cross-posted [with a different title] on the "Just Being Me...Who Needs 'Normalcy' Anyway?" blog.)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Help save HIV cure research in Texas!

Exciting update: as of 10/26/2015, the University of Texas is being very responsive and cooperative! I think there will be a solution soon that will make us all happy. Please await updates, and no need to send any emails or place calls at this time while action is pending.


According to the CDC, there are approximately 75,000 Texans known to be living with HIV - one out of about every 340 people. In addition to those individuals, it is estimated that there are nearly 15,000 Texans who are unaware that they too are living with HIV. HIV can be found among Texans of all genders, ages, and races, but certain groups are at greater risk. For example, over 70% of all new cases of HIV were found in men who have sex with men, and African American or Black Texans are four times more likely to contract HIV than those of other races. Additionally, not only are rates of new diagnoses of HIV among youth and women in Texas are also disproportionately high, both of these groups tend to be diagnosed later than ideal.
“And your point is?” you wonder silently. I’m getting there; bear with me. 
Many of us know that things have changed dramatically over the past few decades for people living with HIV around the globe, especially those in resource-rich settings. Due to advances in treatment over the past few decades, especially the widespread use of combination therapy since the mid-late 1990's, HIV is now considered a manageable chronic condition as opposed to the immediate death sentence it was once perceived as. But there are still a number of health challenges people living with HIV face - and there is still no cure. For this and other reasons, HIV research remains critically important for the HIV community. It is to the field of HIV research that we owe most of the advances people living with HIV benefit from today, which include a nearly 90% reduction in perinatal HIV, longer life expectancies, treatment as prevention, once a day medication, and pre and post exposure prophylaxis. HIV research continues to seek important answers about inflammation, common co-morbidities such as hepatitis, neurological impairment, HPV, women’s health, and tuberculosis. There is still a huge need for HIV research.
We are fortunate in Texas to have a sizeable amount of HIV research funding to help address the needs of our HIV population (and the greater community, for HIV is a public health issue that affects us all in one way or another whether you are diagnosed with it or not). There is HIV research in Texas that is targeted to a variety of populations, including infants, children, teens, young adults, adult men and women, transgender individuals, and MSM; there is also research that addresses specific conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and eradication/cure. Some of the nation’s most dedicated researchers are housed here and are committed to working with and on behalf of the HIV community to improve health, improve lives, and hopefully find a cure for HIV. They have made tremendous progress over the years. Yet now this progress is being jeopardized by pettiness, politics, and discrimination. And that is why I am writing this post. I need your help.
HIV research in Texas is in jeopardy - again. Despite bringing in millions of dollars to our state, and serving thousands of people living with HIV, the good ol’ boy system in Texas seems to think HIV research is of little or no value, and seems determined to push out our HIV researchers - and with them, our hopes for a cure. That is backwards, that is discriminatory, that is unethical, and that is straight BS.
David D. McPherson, MD (Chairman of the Internal Medicine department) of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has made an arbitrary decision to take over the office space of the entire NIH funded Houston AIDS Research Team, uprooting the researchers that are currently there and have been there for years, and give the space to Dr. Dianna M. Milewicz (Medical Genetics). This decision was made without involving the team and apparently with little concern about their thoughts and feelings on the matter. It seems to be an obvious retaliation against the faculty and staff of the Houston AIDS Research Team after they considered a move to Baylor College of Medicine after being forced to give up their laboratory space. The team opted to remain and try to co-exist, but unfortunately now they are being forced out of their offices in order to satiate the desires of the aforementioned Medical Genetics researcher. Clearly at UT Houston all disciplines are not created equal. 
The Houston AIDS Research Team (HART) is an invaluable part of Texas’ HIV research. It is a hardworking and diverse team of men and women that is comprised almost completely of people of color (Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and African American/Black), many of whom are bilingual. HART works hard to serve some of the most underrepresented and marginalized individuals in the Houston area and has enrolled nearly 5,000 individuals in HIV research trials over the last two funding cycles. While many HIV research sites struggle to enroll women, HART maintains an enrollment of approximately 30% women. HART also works hard to recruit and enroll people living with HIV who are dealing with substance use, including intravenous drug users (IDU); 5% of its participants identify as IDU. The site also enrolls an impressive percentage of Hispanic/Latino and African American/Black research participants in its trials.
UT Houston has gained over $20 million from NIH grants and over a million dollars of industry grants from the work of HART’s principal investigator since 1997 alone. Currently HART brings in $800,000 annually for its work. With the exception of an administrative assistant provided by the university, UT Houston has NO expenses for HART’s existence - only financial gain.  HART fully pays for itself from the NIH grants (including its AIDS Clinical Trials Funding). It pays for its own staff salaries and benefits, its own equipment, its own supplies, etc.
HART has a demonstrated history of excellence. It is consistently recognized for being an exemplary site in terms of its enrollment and quality of service. A recent study review commended the team, which is first in enrollment for the REPRIEVE study, on exceeding its enrollment targets by a rate of nearly three times what was projected.  The site currently has ten open HIV research studies (studies on HIV and inflammation, heart disease, genomics, hepatitis C, HIV reservoirs, immune activation, monoclonal antibodies, and HIV cure) with seven additional studies that will be open shortly and one study in development. All of these studies enhance the lives and health of Houstonians living with HIV. 
HART deeply values the input and perspective of the HIV community. It provides regular and detailed feedback to its community advisory board and to the other interested people living with HIV in the local area. Additionally, the site works hard to mentor and develop leaders among its staff and volunteers who in turn use their skills to improve the lives of the HIV community through HIV research with the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and broader advocacy. Here is a snapshot of the site’s current leadership/involvement:
  • Dr. Roberto C. Arduino the site principal investigator and leader of the HART Clinical Research Site) is a member of the HIV Cure-Transformative Science Group, a member of the ACTG Executive Committee, and an investigator for HIV research study A5354.
  • Dr. Jose A. Serpa-Alvarez is on the Underrepresented Populations Committee and is the recipient of the 2015-2016 ACTG nationwide Minority HIV Investigator Mentorship Program under Dr. Arduino’s mentorship.
  • Dr. Netanya Utay is member of the End-Organ Disease/Inflammation Transformative Science Group, the Immune Activation and Microbiome Focus Group, the Co-Chair of the A5317 HIV research study, and an investigator for HIV research studies A5331 and A5350. She has also recently submitted a protocol which was approved earlier this year.
  • Dr. Liz Chiao is investigator of the HIV research study A5298.
  • Grady Douglas, RPh, is Vice-Chair of the Pharmacy Subcommittee of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee and also a member of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee.
  • Corey O’Brien is a Global Community Advisory Board member for the HIV Vaccine Trials Group.
  • Morenike Giwa Onaiwu is Co-Chair of the Global Community Advisory Board and a member of the Community Scientific Subcommittee. 
  • Krystle Luna is Vice Chair of the Outreach, Recruitment & Retention Subcommittee of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee, a member of the Protocol Development & Implementation Subcommittee of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee, and a member of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee.
  • Maria Laura Martinez is a member of the Site Operations Subcommittee of the Site Management & Clinical Care Committee and the REPRIEVE Site Selection and Performance Committee Coordinator.
The actions of UT Houston have demoralized the entire site team and have left them questioning the future of their site and the viability of the work that they are doing. This can adversely affect performance, which in turn can have a negative impact on our local community. It is not acceptable nor feasible for HART to continue to endure discrimination and microaggressions time and time again when they are simply trying to do their work. There are many cities outside of Houston where these physicians, pharmacists, research associates, community advocates, etc. could find work and not be treated in this way; their skills are marketable and their accomplishments would make them highly sought after candidates. They have chosen Houston - so Houston needs to stand behind them - as do others outside of Houston who care about the important work that they are doing to improve the lives of people living with HIV.  
Will you help? Because we need your help.
The University of Texas (at Houston) is NOT listening to the voices of the Houston AIDS Research team. But hopefully they will listen to the voices of the community. Don’t let politics and drama affect important HIV research in Houston!  Please help take a moment to reach out to them to let them know that you disapprove of this decision and that you are asking them to reconsider! 
I have created a petition on Change dot org that will email the message I have provided below to the following decision makers on your behalf if you sign the petition. Here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/dr-david-d-mcpherson-dr-dr-giuseppe-n-colasurdo-dr-dianna-m-milewicz-save-hiv-cure-research-in-texas
But if you would like to contact them via email and send your own personal thoughts on this matter please feel free to do so! You don’t have to use this (very short and basic) script! But feel free to do so.
Also, I am hoping you will consider calling Drs. McPherson and Colasurdo and sharing briefly why you think this decision is a poor one and that you’d like them to reconsider. If you have a personal story to share about why you care (such as being a person living with HIV), or if you live in texas, or anything that might really make an impact, please include that information when you call and/or email.
I have provided the contact information below:

Giuseppe.N.Colasurdo@uth.tmc.edu, phone number 713-500-5010 (University President)
David.D.McPherson@uth.tmc.edu, phone number, 713-500-6553 (Department Head, Internal Medicine)
Dianna.M.Milewicz@uth.tmc.edu, phone number, 713-500-6725 (Medical Genetics professor who asked for the occupied HART office space)
Dear Dr. Colasurdo,
I am contacting you to express my grave concern over Dr. David McPherson’s recent decision to uproot Dr. Arduino and the hardworking Houston AIDS Research Team out of their offices at the university in order to give their working space to Dr. Milewicz. This decision risks the important work of this research site and sends the message that The University of Texas does not value the lives of people living with HIV. The Houston AIDS Research Team has brought millions of dollars into the university, is self-sustaining, and conducts vital research for some of our city’s most vulnerable residents. The site deserves to remain in its current offices so that they can continue to improve the health and lives of positive Texas and seek a cure for HIV. I implore you to rescind this unfair decision and allow the Houston AIDS Research team to remain in their offices; please find other office space for Dr. Milewicz. Thank you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ode to stay at home parents

I was filling out a form and realized for the first time in nearly a decade that I would need to fill out the "occupation" line differently than I have done over the last several years since I am now working nearly full-time outside the home. It gave me pause, because it reminded me of numerous situations where I'd been hit with the "So, what do you do?" question. That question is one that I despise, even though I now have a "socially acceptable" answer. Because I do not for one second regret my many years as a stay at home parent who either didn't work outside the home or only worked part-time.

Being at home allowed me to teach my child who was newly part of our family English instead of having to rush to enroll her in school when she wasn't ready.

Being at home allowed me to go back to school and complete my graduate degree.

Being at home allowed me to attend to the social, academic, and health needs of my children, disabled and nondisabled.

Being at home allowed me to learn how to live frugally and appreciate what I have.

Being at home allowed me the time, energy, and opportunity to exponentially increase my community activism. 

Being at home allowed me to grow spiritually, something that came in handy when I was faced with trials such as back-to-back deaths in the family, my child's hospitalization, a draining legal battle, etc. 

Being at home allowed me to hone the skills that led to me acquiring the job that I have now.

Being at home allowed me an opportunity to appreciate the pressure that women face whether they work outside the home, work at home, stay at home, or a combination of these.

Being at home allowed me to lead the world's largest international HIV clinical trials community group.

Being at home allowed me the availability to travel to our nation's capital and advocate for an end to profiling and police brutality, marching alongside hundreds of others who were also there for the same purpose.

Being at home allowed me to attend the first national HIV advocacy leadership summit for women.

Being at home allowed me to complete a pre-doctoral fellowship in neurodevelopmental disabilities such as Autism, FASD, intellectual disability, etc.

Being at home allowed me to attend class parties, chaperone field trips, and volunteer on campus at my children's schools.

Being at home allowed me to drive over four hours round-trip per day to drive five children to and fro four different schools on three different sides of town.

Being at home helped me - a Black, disabled mom - do my small part in shattering the stereotypes of stay at home parents. 

I respect and applaud all of those who cannot or choose not to stay at home. Working outside the home does NOT make one a lesser parent! But in this day and age when people criticize people, especially women, who stay at home as "doing nothing all day" and/or "wasting their potential," it can be a radical act to stay at home. And though I am currently working outside the home, I have mad love for my people who are at home taking care of business.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Privilege, #McKinney, and fighting

In a LOT of ways I am a "minority." A LOT. But in other ways, I also have a lot of privilege. I live in a resource-rich Western nation. I speak English. I have US citizenship. I am educated. I am cisgender. I am heterosexual. I am married. Despite the various aspects of my personhood in which I am clearly marginalized in multiple ways, I can - and do - acknowledge that there are many areas where I have it a lot easier than others, and for the most part by sheer circumstance. I happened to be born where I was the way I was; I didn't orchestrate it or work for it. I benefit from it nonetheless.


I can admit my many areas of privilege; why is it so hard for people to realize their own? Not just with the #McKinney, but all the time. People always want to "play devil's advocate" or whatever and search for the most random, miniscule, nonsensical ways to justify something as being ANYTHING than the bigotry that it is. People are always quick to scream out, "I'm NOT (insert term here, i.e. "racist," "anti-Semitic," "ableist," "homophobic," "sexist," "promoting HIV stigma," "transphobic," etc). Ironically, many of the people who say that seem to be VERY MUCH those things. However, let's not talk about them. Let's talk about you. 


Let's say YOU'RE not any of these things (above), or at least you sincerely try not to be. That's a good thing. But that doesn't mean much of the world isn't those things...and part of the initial steps to fixing that is by being real with ourselves and acknowledging privilege and bigotry - and using the areas where we ARE privileged to fight for those who aren't. 


And by "fight," I don't necessarily mean protests and/or marches and/or expert-panel presentations if that's not your thing. There's ALL types of ways to fight; one way isn't lesser than the others. They're just different. Teaching your kids the right things? That's fighting. Calling out discrimination when you come across it? That's fighting. Gently but assertively educating someone who is misinformed? That's fighting. Using respectful terminology and pronouns? That's fighting. Sitting back and listening so that you can learn and grow? That's fighting. Apologizing when you "miss the mark" and working intentionally to improve? That's fighting. Loving yourself enough to engage in self-care? That's fighting. Demanding less stigmatizing/more inclusive media terminology and/or images? That's fighting. Advocating through art, sports, writing, social and/or mainstream media, volunteerism, mentoring, teaching? That's fighting. Living and speaking your truth? That's fighting. Contacting supervisors/legislators/superintendents/other decision-makers to try to effect change? That's fighting. Overcoming obstacles to be able to live your authentic life, even when the world seems to want to destroy you? That's fighting. 

That girl in the #McKinney video? Who was insulted, hit, dragged, and sat on by a police officer while he held her face in the ground? Less than a year older than my daughter. And not too different from her in appearance, actually. That girl needs you to fight. My daughter needs you to fight. The world needs you to fight. I need you to fight. 


Will you fight with me?


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SB 779 is DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It passed the Calendars Committee and was scheduled to be heard on the House floor, but they never got to it, so it died.

There's more details and we will edit the post to share more as we learn more. Right now, we're just basking in our elation - for now. We will obviously have a fight on our hands in 2017, but for the time being, Texas is safe.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HIV is Not a Crime, Act Up: Fight SB#779!





On the afternoon of May 20, 2015, the Texas Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a previously unscheduled public hearing that was not posted in advance per the Texas Open Meetings Act. At this meeting, Senate Bill 779 (which will be referred to for the rest of this post as SB 779) was considered by the committee. 

(For those unfamiliar, SB 779 proposes to amend the state Health  and Safety Code to allow for HIV test results (which are currently confidential) to be subpoenaed during grand jury proceedings -  and for a defendant's medical records to be accessed without their consent to establish guilt/innocence and also potentially to be used to determine sentencing. Essentially, this bill proposes to criminalize having HIV.


The problematic nature of this bill is explained further by public policy advocate Januari Leo, in an article that appeared in March 2014 in the Dallas Voice





“There’s already {existing} legislation in place via the Ryan White Act requirements making it a crime to intentionally spread HIV; these aren’t these bills. These new bills {including SB 779} use HIV status as a crime, against people who are suspects in a crime but have yet to be proven guilty. They’re allowing prosecutors to use private medical records, as mandated under HIPPA, as a weapon.”


The community, led by the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition and with huge support from entities such as the SERO Project, Positive Women's Network-USA, and advocates all over the state and globe, have been actively opposing this bill. However, members of the HIV community were not made aware of the hearing until mere minutes prior to the start of this hearing. Due to insufficient prior notice, few advocates from the community were able to appear in person to testify in opposition of the bill,  but many placed phone calls and emails to register their concerns and urge the committee to vote against the bill. The bill was left pending throughout most of the afternoon, but unfortunately it passed the committee. 

The Texas Legislative session, which only meets biannually, is over at the end of May 2015. This matter is of DIRE IMPORTANCE; we MUST work diligently to oppose this bill RIGHT NOW. This is our final chance to stop this discriminatory HIV criminalization bill from becoming law.  
Time is of the essence; TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY (May 26 and 27) are the last days for Senate bills to be considered on the House floor. 


We have to reach out to all the members of the Texas Calendars Committee to convince them not to pass this bill. And we need to do it NOW. RIGHT NOW. We are now in the fight of our lives - FOR our lives. 



Keep reading the post (apologies for its length).
Below we tell you what to say and who to say it to!
________________________________________


Senate Bill 779 Talking Points


"Senate Bill 779, introduced by Sen Joan Huffman, would remove the confidential nature of HIV test results and allow them to be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.  SB 779 is targeted solely at people living with HIV as stated by the Sen. Huffman in the Senate State Affairs Committee when the bill was introduced. SB 779 was passed by the Senate and has now been assigned to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  We need your help defeating this bill! Please call and email the members of the committee listed below. We also need folks willing to travel to Austin to testify against this harmful bill in the next two weeks. 

(Feel free to use any and all of the below points in phone calls, emails, or other correspondence!)



SB 779 is bad for the estimated 76,000 Texans living with HIV and for Texas for the following reasons:


1. Using HIV test results in any criminal prosecution makes it appear that HIV is the crime rather than the actual crime being investigated. We need public health solutions to fight HIV and not criminal prosecutions.


2. Criminalizing people because they are HIV positive continues to perpetuate fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.  Texas does not have an HIV specific criminal statute. Prosecutors should charge the actual crime and not the health status!


3. Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment. Tests results can’t be used against you if you don’t get tested. 


4. There is no evidence that HIV related prosecutions increase disclosure, reduce the spread of HIV or deter the rare acts of intentional transmission.


5. Laws should reinforce science-based public health messages.  SB 779 could also be applied against persons charged with crimes involving spitting and biting. There is simply no need to prosecute someone for attempting to transmit HIV through spitting or biting, because that is not how HIV is transmitted.


6. It violates the privacy rights of people living with HIV by permitting confidential medical information to be used in a criminal proceeding.  Issuing a protective order at a later stage does not prevent the violation of privacy. 


7. HIV is a chronically manageable disease and should not be treated as a deadly weapon. Defining HIV as a deadly weapon further stigmatizes the disease and those living with it. 


8. Although the bill is supposed to target cases of intentional transmission; it is overbroad and would apply to any person living with HIV involved in a criminal prosecution.  

__________________________________________


Texas House Calendar Committee members:


Rep. Todd Hunter (Chair), District 32 (Nueces)


Eddie Lucio (Vice Chair), District 38 (Brownsville)



Roberto Alonzo,  District 104 (Dallas)



Byron Cook, District 8 (Corsicana)



Sarah Davis, District 134 (Houston)



Charlie Geren, District 99 (River Oaks)



Helen Giddings, District 109 (DeSoto)


Patricia Harless, District 126 (Spring)



Dan Huberty, District 127 (Kingwood)



Eric Johnson, District 100 (Dallas)



Ken King, District 88 (Canadian)



Lyle Larson, District 122 (San Antonio)



Four Price, District 87 (Amarillo)



Debbie Riddle, District 150 (Spring)



Eddie Rodriguez, District 51 (Austin)


Thank you."


Here is a direct link to the committee page with all of the Calendar committee members' contact info also.
________________________________________


Sample Tweets You Can Send Out for #SB779 Advocacy
(*Be sure to include the Twitter handles of the members above!!!)

Ppl living w/#HIV deserve the same privacy as anyone else; vote NO on #SB779! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime


#SB779 violates the privacy & dignity of ppl w/#HIV! #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime


#HIV does NOT = less than! #SB779 says otherwise. #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime


#SB779 is a HUGE step BACKWARDS for #TX; oppose it! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV #HIVisnotacrime


#SB779 poses a #publichealth problem not just for ppl w/#HIV, but 4 ALL of #TX.  #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime


#HIVisnotacrime, but #SB779 treats it as such. Oppose this unfair bill! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV


#TX does NOT need #SB779 to create more #HIV stigma & fear; vote NO! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime 


#HIPAA exists 4 a reason; #SB779 violates privacy & should not pass in #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV


Texans w/#HIV are NOT 2nd class citizens; oppose #SB779 now! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime


#Publichealth concerns need public health solutions, NOT criminal penalties! #SB779 #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV


#HIV should be treated the same way we treat other communicable diseases; say NO to #SB779. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime


If #SB779 passes, we will lose years of progress made w/#HIV testing & treatment. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime


#SB779 invades privacy & criminalizes #HIV. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

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