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Why are people still in jail after HIV transmission myths have been exposed?


HIV transmission
(NaturalNews) New research promises great hope for those suffering from a ravaging and potentially deadly disease – HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS – but it leaves in limbo those who have been persecuted and prosecuted for having unprotected sex while afflicted with the virus.

As reported by the UK's Daily Mail, a day's dose of a new anti-HIV drug nearly eradicates the risk of infection for anyone who is in a sexual relationship with a partner who is HIV-positive. The findings especially provide hope for researchers on the African continent, where new cases of HIV and AIDS are among the highest in the world.

Researchers found that when HIV-positive partners in couples – two-thirds of whom were female – were given antiretroviral therapy (ARV) to suppress the virus and stop the progression of the disease, and HIV-negative partners were given a daily pill that prevents infection (PrEP), incredible results were produced.

"HIV was virtually eliminated in this population," the study's lead researcher, Dr. Jared Baeten of the University of Washington, told Reuters. "More than 95 per cent of the HIV infections that we expected to see, we did not see."

Researchers worked with more than 1,000 couples from Kenya and Uganda in conducting the two-year study, the results of which were announced Tuesday at the Durban International AIDS Conference in South Africa.

At the gathering, delegates are focusing on the United Nations goal of ending AIDS as a global health crisis by 2030.

'Has to be a part of the puzzle'

For its part, South Africa has the most people of any nation in the world living with HIV; they account for 6.8 million of the 36.7 million who are infected each year.

Baeten said that the study was very good news for serodiscordant couples – that is, couples where one partner is HIV positive and the other negative – who would like to have children.

For the study, non-infected partners were given the preventative drug for six months, while their HIV-infected partner took ARVs, which reduced the viral load and, thus, the risk of infection.

"Couples really value something like this because it's important for maintaining their relationship, for maintaining their family," Baeten said. "PrEP offers a really potent, usable, deliverable HIV prevention strategy ... PrEP has to be part of the puzzle for ending HIV."

South Africa and Kenya are among seven nations around the world that have approved PrEP – or pre-exposure prophylaxis – Chris Beyrer, president of the International AIDS Society, noted in a briefing before the start of the conference.

But the drugs can be expensive, which is an issue that activists and governments alike are attempting to address. That's where vitamin-rich anti-viral foods can likely help in reducing transmission rates.

"(We are) really going to focus on the affordability and access to PrEP and, we hope, really begin a PrEP access era globally," said Beyrer.

Last week, Kenyan officials announced that the country would begin offering free PrEP to those in high-risk groups, including couples where one partner is infected with the HIV virus. Also, the government will provide ARVs to all who have been diagnosed positive.

The Daily Mail reported further that married couples account for 44 percent of all new infections in Kenya, which has an HIV-positive population of 1.5 million people, according to government data.

Less than half of those with the disease around the world are even receiving treatment for it. According to the UN, this is because many people do not know that they are stricken with the disease.

Now the world is on the verge of a new, highly effective treatment for the disease, but that won't benefit any of the scores of people with the disease who have been jailed for having unprotected sex.

'Disproportionate impact'

As noted by the website attn:, between 2008 and 2013, there were 180 prosecutions of people in the United States who were accused of spreading the disease under old laws that were passed long before the world had any real understanding of it, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy.

Such laws mean that an HIV-infected person can be jailed for biting a person, spitting at someone or for having consensual sex, regardless of whether or not protection is used. Today, researchers know that HIV cannot be transmitted via saliva, but 32 states still have laws on the books like this – and people are still being sent to prison because of them.

attn: noted further:

"Enacted in the late 1970s and early 80s, these laws reflect an era when people were afraid of the growing prevalence of HIV or 'gay cancer' and thought you could get contract the disease simply by being around someone who had it."

"While framed as public health measures intended to prevent the spread of HIV, in reality these laws stigmatize people with HIV and misrepresent the causes of HIV transmission, the treatment options, and outcomes for people living with HIV and disproportionately impact people of color," Chase Strangio of the ACLU wrote earlier this month.

As noted by the HIV Law Center, "Thirty-two states and two U.S. territories have HIV-specific criminal statutes and thirty-six states have reported proceedings in which HIV-positive people have been arrested and/or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting, and spitting. At least 180 such prosecutions occurred from 2008 to 2013 alone."

Prosecuting disease

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has also noted in a "best practices" policy paper how to align HIV-related criminal statutes with "scientifically supported factors."

"The stigma associated with HIV remains extremely high and fear of discrimination causes some Americans to avoid learning their HIV status, disclosing their status, or accessing medical care," says the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, issued in 2010, the Justice Department noted. That stigma needs to end, as does the prosecution of those with the disease.

Cases that have been prosecuted include:

-- A Texas man with HIV is currently serving 35 years for spitting at a police officer;

-- A man with HIV in Iowa, who had an undetectable viral load, was given a 25-year sentence following a one-time sexual encounter during which he used a condom. And, though his sentence was suspended, he nevertheless was required to register as a sex offender, and cannot have unsupervised visits with his nieces, nephews and other young children;

-- An HIV-positive Georgia woman got an 8-year sentence after failing to disclose her HIV status, in spite of testimony at her trial by two witnesses who said her sex partner was aware of her condition.

Sources:

DailyMail.co.uk

ATTN.com

HIVLawAndPolicy.org

ACLU.org
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