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February 04, 2019

KC CARE Supports Missouri Lawmakers’ efforts to decriminalize HIV Status

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KC CARE Health Center supports efforts at the Missouri state level to modernize HIV-specific criminal codes. Specifically, KC CARE supports HB 167 sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder (R-148th) and HB 166 sponsored by Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-88). Missouri’s outdated, medically inaccurate, and stigmatizing HIV-specific criminal codes harm people living with HIV (PLWH) and perpetuate stigma and shame. “What’s unfortunate about Missouri’s existing criminal laws is that they subject a person to criminal liability for otherwise non-criminal conduct. In fact, the laws are sometimes used as a coercive tool to trap an intimate partner in a violent relationship through threat of criminal prosecution” according to LaTrischa Miles, Treatment Adherence Supervisor at KC CARE.

According to Empower Missouri, a social justice advocacy organization, “Missouri is one of more than 30 states that criminalize HIV status by making it possible to prosecute an HIV-positive person who cannot prove that they disclosed their positive status before a sexual encounter. Such disclosure may be very difficult to prove since it often comes down to one person’s word against another.” Additionally, the Missouri statutes are not based on medically accurate information relating to HIV transmission. Specifically, they make criminal charges possible for exposing others to fluids that do not transmit HIV, such as saliva and urine.

These statutes also do not accurately reflect medical advancements in HIV treatment. PLWH who take their medication as prescribed and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners. Furthermore, PLWH who remain engaged in their medical care and take their medication as prescribed live long, healthy lives. Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) view HIV as a chronic condition, much like diabetes. Missouri’s HIV-specific criminal codes should be updated to remove inaccurate information and instead reflect modern HIV treatment and prognoses.

KC CARE Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center and a direct recipient of Ryan White funds, has provided medical and supportive service for PLWH since the 1980s. People in the Kansas City region, regardless of their insurance status, can receive HIV prevention at any of KC CARE’s three locations. Specifically, KC CARE offers confidential HIV testing, access to PrEP and PEP, HIV primary care, case management, therapy, and peer services. Visit kccare.org/hiv to learn more.

For information on HIV modernization efforts at the Missouri statewide level, please contact mohivjustice@empowermissouri.org. For information on getting connected to HIV medical and support services at KC CARE, contact Director of HIV Services, Corinne Kritikos, at corinnek@kccare.org or 816-777-2710.