The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced Tuesday a lawsuit against Tennessee for a statute regarding HIV-positive individuals.
Tennessee law prohibits someone with HIV from knowingly passing it to another individual through “intimate contact” without informing their partner they have the disease.
From Justia US Law:
A person commits the offense of criminal exposure of another to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), to hepatitis B virus (HBV), or to hepatitis C virus (HCV) when, knowing that the person is infected with HIV, with HBV, or with HCV, the person knowingly:
- Engages in intimate contact with another;
Tennessee also has a law prohibiting someone who knows they have HIV from engaging in prostitution.
From Justia US Law:
A person commits aggravated prostitution when, knowing that such person is infected with HIV, the person engages in sexual activity as a business or is an inmate in a house of prostitution or loiters in a public place for the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity.Advertisement
The ACLU’s reasoning for the lawsuit was quite shocking.
“We’re suing Tennessee for their ‘aggravated prostitution’ statute that targets people with HIV with harsh punishment and lifetime sex offender registration. This law is unconstitutional and disproportionately affects Black and transgender women,” the ACLU stated.
“The law elevates engaging in sex work from a misdemeanor to a felony based on someone’s HIV status – a protected disability.”
The law elevates engaging in sex work from a misdemeanor to a felony based on someone's HIV status – a protected disability.
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 24, 2023
“People who are convicted must register as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives, restricting their access to housing, employment, and social services,” the ACLU continued.
“Instead of criminalizing HIV, which disproportionately targets people who are already socially and financially marginalized, lawmakers should invest in evidence-based public health support for people with HIV. Tennessee, we’ll see you in court.”
Instead of criminalizing HIV, which disproportionately targets people who are already socially and financially marginalized, lawmakers should invest in evidence-based public health support for people with HIV.
Tennessee, we'll see you in court.
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 24, 2023
“Does the ACLU realize what it’s saying here?” Mike Cernovich asked.
Does the ACLU realize what it’s saying here? pic.twitter.com/StRojUCFXD
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) October 24, 2023
“It never ends. Now the ACLU thinks there should be no penalty for knowingly giving someone HIV/AIDS,” Donald Trump Jr. said.
It never ends. Now the ACLU thinks there should be no penalty for knowingly giving someone HIV/AIDS. https://t.co/L3dMqkSs4s
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 24, 2023
“First the ACLU wanted to get kids in Tennessee sex change surgeries and now they want us to have hookers with HIV giving it to people in TN. These demonic people have no lines they won’t cross. We’ll stop their hookers just like we stopped child mutilation,” Robby Starbuck commented.
First the @ACLU wanted to get kids in Tennessee sex change surgeries and now they want us to have hookers with HIV giving it to people in TN. These demonic people have no lines they won’t cross. We’ll stop their hookers just like we stopped child mutilation. https://t.co/CKrns72Lws
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 25, 2023
“The ACLU wins the award for ‘most out of pocket shot taken at black women in 2023.’ Calm down fam,” Malcolm FleX commented.
The ACLU wins the award for "most out of pocket shot taken at black women in 2023."
Calm down fam. pic.twitter.com/UIPHszWRoN
— Malcolm FleX (@Malcolm_fleX48) October 24, 2023
“The ACLU is standing up for *checks notes* prostitutes who deliberately spread HIV. What,” Ian Miles Cheong said.
The ACLU is standing up for *checks notes* prostitutes who deliberately spread HIV.
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) October 24, 2023
“This is racist and transphobic. Cancel the ACLU,” Viva Frei said.
This is racist and transphobic.
— Viva Frei (@thevivafrei) October 24, 2023
The ACLU announced Tuesday:
Tennessee’s Aggravated Prostitution statute and related sex offender registration requirements are unconstitutional and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to a federal lawsuit filed today against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Transgender Law Center, and the ACLU of Tennessee in the U.S. District Court in Memphis on behalf of four Jane Doe plaintiffs and OUTMemphis, the state’s oldest and largest service provider for LGBTQ+ people.
Plaintiffs argue that the Aggravated Prostitution statute is rooted in fear and discrimination, targeting people living with HIV for harsh punishment and forcing them to register as “violent sex offenders” for the rest of their lives. Criminalizing people with HIV defies evidence-based best practices and is patently unlawful as it singles out people living with HIV — a protected disability — for harsher punishment.
“People convicted of Aggravated Prostitution must spend years in prison and then register as violent sex offenders for the rest of their lives – meaning they cannot access the housing, employment, healthcare and community life that they need to get back on their feet,” said Molly Quinn, executive director of OUTMemphis. “This statute solely targets people because of their HIV status and keeps them in cycles of poverty, while posing absolutely zero benefit to public health and safety.”
“HIV stigma is becoming a thing of the past, and it’s time for state law to catch up. OUTMemphis fights so that queer people are free to live in safety, with dignity, and we believe everyone deserves that regardless of their HIV status.”
Tennessee’s Aggravated Prostitution law was passed in 1991 at a time of national panic over HIV. The law targets people engaged in sex work, enhancing their charges from misdemeanors to felonies solely based on HIV status, making it difficult to find other employment. Since then, many states have moved on from criminalizing HIV, better understanding the rates and methods of transmission and the way criminalization is counterproductive to effective testing and treatment. New treatments such as Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) can reduce viral loads to undetectable levels, blocking the possibility of transmission.