Earlier this week investigative reporter Todd Heywood raised questions about Here Comes Honey Boo Boo cast member Lee Thompson (known on the show as Uncle Poodle), who claims to have had a former boyfriend sent to prison for five years for infecting him with HIV.
Today ACT UP responded to the story via press release.
While it’s unfortunate that Thompson became HIV+, pressing charges against his ex-boyfriend in criminal court makes it sound like he was solely responsible for Thompson’s infection and therefore is criminal for mishandling that responsibility. Sex between consenting adults is a shared decision, and the responsibility for protection against disease should not be borne by one person (ie the HIV+ person). Placing sole responsibility on one person undermines the reality that every person should take responsibility for his/her own sexual health.
Criminal outcomes like this don’t encourage people to get tested and know their status. They further marginalize a community that’s already misrepresented in the media. While it’s morally right to know and disclose your status to your partners, status and disclosure can’t effectively be legislated in a court. Increasing sex education and access to testing will help create an environment where people want to know and disclose their HIV status instead of fearing legal retribution for it.
Currently, US Congressman Barbara Lee has sponsored a bill called the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act that would require a review of all federal and state laws, policies, and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses. This bill will go a long way toward rectifying the outdated practices of criminalizing those with HIV and handing down severe sentences based on outdated information about the virus.