Not Again

Around ASF Blog
Volume 1 / Entry 25
October 4, 2012

Hello friends,

I can’t believe that I am writing about this, again. There has been yet another incident of misinformation or lack of information regarding people living with HIV. This time it happened in Detroit and involved someone charged with protecting the rights of individuals in his jurisdiction. Thankfully, this incident ended only in a ticket from the peace officer, not in anyone’s death as did the last one I wrote about.

Technically, the following happened in Dearborn, MI, on August 3rd.

A videotape of a traffic stop shows an unnamed officer telling Shalandra Jones and the driver of the car she was riding in that he was issuing a ticket because he was “aggravated” that Jones did not reveal her HIV-positive status before he searched the vehicle. This is wrong on so many legal levels. However, the most “aggravating” thing for me is that the officer believed casual contact with a person living with HIV would infect him.

The officer apparently told Jones that he didn’t want to “catch anything” and that he “has a family.” The violation that was eventually ticketed was for a broken tail light. However, the fact that he said it was being issued because of his aggravation that Jones was not forthcoming with her HIV status is plain stupid and, although I’m not an attorney, pretty darn unlawful.

Does he expect vehicular transgressors to reveal possible cases of influenza, whooping cough or pink eye? I doubt he does. However, that request would at least be more prudent since, unlike HIV, they can be transmitted through casual contact. Those viral and bacterial infections are much more likely to harm his family, as well.

It’s obvious that we in the United States still have a lot of work to do to educate the population about the reality of HIV. We don’t have to fear association with those living with HIV. No one is going to “catch anything” unless they undertake risky behaviors…sharing IV needles, engaging in unprotected sex. Car searches are not included in this short list. There is no need to further stigmatize this disease in any way. It doesn’t help anyone.

We can be thankful that Dearborn police chief Ronald Haddad is sending his entire agency to HIV and AIDS training. He says he’s taking the incident very seriously. I hope so. When we’re so close to turning the tide on this disease, we can’t afford to have police officers out on the street pushing misinformation and disrespect like the bad drugs they are.

Can’t write this enough: “Talk about HIV. Get tested. Reduce the stigma. Get over it. Save lives.”

Thanks for reading!

Marc Montminy
Director of Communications and Public Relations

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