Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SB 779 is DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It passed the Calendars Committee and was scheduled to be heard on the House floor, but they never got to it, so it died.

There's more details and we will edit the post to share more as we learn more. Right now, we're just basking in our elation - for now. We will obviously have a fight on our hands in 2017, but for the time being, Texas is safe.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

HIV is Not a Crime, Act Up: Fight SB#779!

On the afternoon of May 20, 2015, the Texas Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a previously unscheduled public hearing that was not posted in advance per the Texas Open Meetings Act. At this meeting, Senate Bill 779 (which will be referred to for the rest of this post as SB 779) was considered by the committee. 

(For those unfamiliar, SB 779 proposes to amend the state Health  and Safety Code to allow for HIV test results (which are currently confidential) to be subpoenaed during grand jury proceedings -  and for a defendant's medical records to be accessed without their consent to establish guilt/innocence and also potentially to be used to determine sentencing. Essentially, this bill proposes to criminalize having HIV.

The problematic nature of this bill is explained further by public policy advocate Januari Leo, in an article that appeared in March 2014 in the Dallas Voice

“There’s already {existing} legislation in place via the Ryan White Act requirements making it a crime to intentionally spread HIV; these aren’t these bills. These new bills {including SB 779} use HIV status as a crime, against people who are suspects in a crime but have yet to be proven guilty. They’re allowing prosecutors to use private medical records, as mandated under HIPPA, as a weapon.”

The community, led by the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition and with huge support from entities such as the SERO Project, Positive Women's Network-USA, and advocates all over the state and globe, have been actively opposing this bill. However, members of the HIV community were not made aware of the hearing until mere minutes prior to the start of this hearing. Due to insufficient prior notice, few advocates from the community were able to appear in person to testify in opposition of the bill,  but many placed phone calls and emails to register their concerns and urge the committee to vote against the bill. The bill was left pending throughout most of the afternoon, but unfortunately it passed the committee. 

The Texas Legislative session, which only meets biannually, is over at the end of May 2015. This matter is of DIRE IMPORTANCE; we MUST work diligently to oppose this bill RIGHT NOW. This is our final chance to stop this discriminatory HIV criminalization bill from becoming law.  
Time is of the essence; TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY (May 26 and 27) are the last days for Senate bills to be considered on the House floor. 

We have to reach out to all the members of the Texas Calendars Committee to convince them not to pass this bill. And we need to do it NOW. RIGHT NOW. We are now in the fight of our lives - FOR our lives. 

Keep reading the post (apologies for its length).
Below we tell you what to say and who to say it to!

Senate Bill 779 Talking Points

"Senate Bill 779, introduced by Sen Joan Huffman, would remove the confidential nature of HIV test results and allow them to be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.  SB 779 is targeted solely at people living with HIV as stated by the Sen. Huffman in the Senate State Affairs Committee when the bill was introduced. SB 779 was passed by the Senate and has now been assigned to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  We need your help defeating this bill! Please call and email the members of the committee listed below. We also need folks willing to travel to Austin to testify against this harmful bill in the next two weeks. 

(Feel free to use any and all of the below points in phone calls, emails, or other correspondence!)

SB 779 is bad for the estimated 76,000 Texans living with HIV and for Texas for the following reasons:

1. Using HIV test results in any criminal prosecution makes it appear that HIV is the crime rather than the actual crime being investigated. We need public health solutions to fight HIV and not criminal prosecutions.

2. Criminalizing people because they are HIV positive continues to perpetuate fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.  Texas does not have an HIV specific criminal statute. Prosecutors should charge the actual crime and not the health status!

3. Treating a medical condition as evidence of a crime is at direct odds with public health campaigns to get as many people as possible tested and, if HIV positive, into treatment. Tests results can’t be used against you if you don’t get tested. 

4. There is no evidence that HIV related prosecutions increase disclosure, reduce the spread of HIV or deter the rare acts of intentional transmission.

5. Laws should reinforce science-based public health messages.  SB 779 could also be applied against persons charged with crimes involving spitting and biting. There is simply no need to prosecute someone for attempting to transmit HIV through spitting or biting, because that is not how HIV is transmitted.

6. It violates the privacy rights of people living with HIV by permitting confidential medical information to be used in a criminal proceeding.  Issuing a protective order at a later stage does not prevent the violation of privacy. 

7. HIV is a chronically manageable disease and should not be treated as a deadly weapon. Defining HIV as a deadly weapon further stigmatizes the disease and those living with it. 

8. Although the bill is supposed to target cases of intentional transmission; it is overbroad and would apply to any person living with HIV involved in a criminal prosecution.  


Texas House Calendar Committee members:

Rep. Todd Hunter (Chair), District 32 (Nueces)

Eddie Lucio (Vice Chair), District 38 (Brownsville)

Roberto Alonzo,  District 104 (Dallas)

Byron Cook, District 8 (Corsicana)

Sarah Davis, District 134 (Houston)

Charlie Geren, District 99 (River Oaks)

Helen Giddings, District 109 (DeSoto)

Patricia Harless, District 126 (Spring)

Dan Huberty, District 127 (Kingwood)

Eric Johnson, District 100 (Dallas)

Ken King, District 88 (Canadian)

Lyle Larson, District 122 (San Antonio)

Four Price, District 87 (Amarillo)

Debbie Riddle, District 150 (Spring)

Eddie Rodriguez, District 51 (Austin)

Thank you."

Here is a direct link to the committee page with all of the Calendar committee members' contact info also.

Sample Tweets You Can Send Out for #SB779 Advocacy
(*Be sure to include the Twitter handles of the members above!!!)

Ppl living w/#HIV deserve the same privacy as anyone else; vote NO on #SB779! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#SB779 violates the privacy & dignity of ppl w/#HIV! #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime

#HIV does NOT = less than! #SB779 says otherwise. #TXHIV #texlege #HIVisnotacrime

#SB779 is a HUGE step BACKWARDS for #TX; oppose it! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV #HIVisnotacrime

#SB779 poses a #publichealth problem not just for ppl w/#HIV, but 4 ALL of #TX.  #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#HIVisnotacrime, but #SB779 treats it as such. Oppose this unfair bill! #texlege #TXHIV #HIV

#TX does NOT need #SB779 to create more #HIV stigma & fear; vote NO! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime 

#HIPAA exists 4 a reason; #SB779 violates privacy & should not pass in #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV

Texans w/#HIV are NOT 2nd class citizens; oppose #SB779 now! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#Publichealth concerns need public health solutions, NOT criminal penalties! #SB779 #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime #HIV

#HIV should be treated the same way we treat other communicable diseases; say NO to #SB779. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

If #SB779 passes, we will lose years of progress made w/#HIV testing & treatment. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#SB779 invades privacy & criminalizes #HIV. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

Photo credit:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Houston, we have a problem!!!!

Apparently the state of Texas has declared OPEN SEASON on people living with HIV.

Photo credit: Disney

During the current state legislative session (that is still ongoing), we saw not one, not two, but THREE disturbing HIV related bills introduced, all of which related to violation of privacy and were basically HIV criminalization bills. One of these bills, #SB779, passed the Texas Senate AND the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and is at risk as we speak of becoming law. 

During this same legislative session, state legislators undermined Texas public health by attempting to gut much-needed HIV funding. Fortunately, largely due to vocal advocates around the state, this funding was saved - but the fact that it was at the very real risk of being lost is extremely telling. 

Outside of the legislature, Texas has declared war on the HIV community in additional ways. Earlier this month, the University of Texas demanded that the lab used for HIV therapeutic, co-infection and HIV cure research be immediately vacated - putting vital HIV research at risk of being forced on hold for nearly a month. Fortunately, the hardworking research site staff were able to work quickly to identify an alternative site, shut down operations, relocate, and resume their important work. 

NOW University of Texas is forcing the same HIV research site staff OUT of its offices. The state has been content to pocket the millions of federal research dollars that this ACTG research site - one of only TWO in our ENTIRE STATE - brings in, but has repeatedly engaged in microaggressions such as those that I've described here, and several others - against the dedicated HIV research staff who are housed in Houston's world-renowned Texas Medical Center and at Thomas Street. The loss of office space will not only hurt the staff, but it will hurt the HIV research clients, many of whom are already from marginalized communities (i.e. people of color, LGBTQ* individuals, women, youth, former inmates, etc).

It's time for targeted action, and NOW. The debacle with #SB779 has already demonstrated where some in our state stand with regard to HIV criminalization. Now they are putting our HIV research - which is the ONLY way we will achieve a cure - at risk. This needs to stop. 

It's a Friday night and it's short notice. But we need a battle plan and we need one NOW. 
Please join Advocacy Without Borders and Living Large in Houston TONIGHT for a meeting about Advocating for HIV Clinical Trials. 

Can't come physically? Join us via FREE Conference Call at 6:30 pm Central.

Dial in number: 641-715-3580
Pin: 949-657-779
Coming in person? The meeting will be held Friday, May 22, 2015 from 6:30 pm to ~ 8:00 pm at: 

The Montrose Center
First Floor, Room 114
401 Branard Street
Houston, Texas 77006

Please join in with us to OPPOSE the OPEN SEASON on Texas' HIV community!!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#JusticeFor Kayleb SOCIAL MEDIA BOMB!!!!!!!

It's almost here. May 21, 2015. The day we set social media ablaze with one battle cry: 

(Image is of a lit bomb with various social media logos inside of it. Photo credit:

Kayleb Moon-Robinson has been through enough. People around the globe have been supporting him and his family ever since we learned of the horrific injustice done to him. Kayleb is not a criminal, and he deserves for this extremely unpleasant situation to end, and soon. He deserves much better than what has happened.

We have been speaking out via petition signatures, blogs, articles, tweets, press releases, and more, and tomorrow we get even louder.
We won't stop  - NOT until we get JUSTICE and the unfair prosecution against Kayleb is halted ONCE and FOR ALL!

Join with us! All day tomorrow. Our day, our way. Whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Vimeo, something else, a combination of them all; whatever. We need your contribution to let it be known that we are 100% with Kayleb and his family and we demand a change - RIGHT NOW.  

We also encourage you IN ADDITION TO ADVOCATING to also consider sending youth-appropriate messages of support and/or images to encourage Kayleb himself! He LOVES frogs, Pokemon, and the young Justice League. His favorite colors are turquiose and brown, he is a Christian, and he is a middle sibling. You can post your support on the event page, on social media, and/or email directly to NO media inquiries nor questions about the legal case, please. 


If you are on Twitter, these are the Twitter handles we will be targeting. The main ones are (in order of relevance):

@GovernorVA (Virginia Governor)
@AGMarkHerring (Virginia Attorney General)
@LGRalphNortham (Virginia Lieutenant Governor)
@VA_Laws (Virginia Law Portal)
@VASecofEdu (Virginia Secretary of Education)
@VaSecofHealth (Virginia Secretary of Health & Human Svc)
@VDOE_News (Virginia Department of Education)

(Feel free to modify by changing text, adding images/links, etc or use as is)

#Autism is NOT a crime; end the unfair prosecution agst Kayleb 2day! #JusticeForKayleb

What happened to FAPE? Kayleb deserves education, not prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

VA refers more students to law enforcement than any other state. No more #schooltoprison! #JusticeForKayleb

First #FreeNeli, now #JusticeForKayleb? What is going on in VA? #JusticeForKayleb

Behavior is communication! Kayleb is suffering bcz he was not given proper supports! #JusticeForKayleb

Ppl on the autism spectrum deserve better. End this unfair prosecution now! #JusticeForKayleb

Being disabled is NOT a crime! Support, not shackles! End the unfair prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

There are too many cases like Kayleb’s in VA & the nation; this is NOT RIGHT. End this unfair prosecution! #EnoughIsEnough #JusticeForKayleb

11 yr olds w/#disabilities should be given support, not prosecuted! Make a change & end the unjust prosecution NOW!  #JusticeForKayleb

Pls don’t ruin Kayleb’s life. He deserves a chance. Unfair the unfair prosecution NOW!!! #JusticeForKayleb

Over 123K ppl across the globe want #JusticeForKayleb; end this unjust prosecution & provide supports!

When will it end? Who will be the next hashtag? End this unfair prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

Does VA care at all about #humanrights? Do its students matter? End the unfair prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

Kayleb is NOT a 2nd class citizen bcz of his disability; he deserves support, not a record! #JusticeForKayleb

The state of VA can do better than this! End the #schooltoprisonpipeline now starting w/#JusticeFor Kayleb!

We will NOT stop speaking & we will NOT stop fighting for #JusticeForKayleb. Autistics deserve human rights too!

Students in VA deserve to go to school to be educated, not handcuffed. End this unfair prosecution. #JusticeForKayleb NOW!

If all ppl have value, why is this happening to Kayleb? Doesn’t his life matter? #JusticeForKayleb

Whose child will be next? Will it be mine? Stop this unjust prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

Listen to the community! We stand behind Kayleb & his family; end this unfair prosecution now! #JusticeForKayleb

VA is sending a strong message to the world that students like Kayleb do not matter. He is NOT a criminal; end this prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

An 11 yr old unarmed child does NOT deserve to be prosecuted for “felony assault on an officer.” It’s not too late to fix this! #JusticeForKayleb

VA sends 3 TIMES more students to law enforcement than ANY OTHER STATE. Kayleb is one of them; end this unfair prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

Virginia’s nickname is Mother of States; should it be changed to Mother of Prisoners! End the #schooltoprisonpipeline now & grant #JusticeForKayleb!

We thought Virginia was “Old Dominion” not “Old Discrimination.” What happened to Kayleb is a travesty; end his prosecution now! #JusticeForKayleb

Disability is a natural form of human expression, NOT a crime. Don’t punish & prosecute; strengthen & support! #JusticeForKayleb

Ppl on the autism spectrum & their families already face societal barriers; now they have to fear being arrested on school grounds? End the unfair prosecution; #JusticeForKayleb 2day!

Kayleb’s unfair prosecution casts shame on the entire state of Virginia. This state can do better. #JusticeForKayleb

Kayleb does NOT belong in the juvenile justice system; he belongs in a classroom! Right this wrong by ending the prosecution 2day! #JusticeForKayleb

The entire world is watching how the state of Virginia is handling this case. Don’t create a legacy of injustice & despair! #JusticeForKayleb

Why are Virginia students more likely to end up in handcuffs than in any other state, especially disabled students & PoC? End Kayleb’s unfair prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

6th grade should be a joyous time of new beginnings & learning; for Kayleb it has instead been a nightmare. He has suffered enough; it’s time for #JusticeForKayleb

Kayleb’s future & that of other students w/#disabilities is hanging in the balance. Pls don’t let injustice win; end these prosecutions! #JusticeForKayleb

The global community is speaking! From Lynchburg to Lesotho to Luxembourg we are crying out for #JusticeForKayleb; end his unfair prosecution!

We send our children to school to be taught, not fought! Kicking a trash can in a meltdown is NOT worth criminal charges! End Kayleb’s unfair prosecutions! #JusticeForKayleb

This prosecution is destroying Kayleb’s life & that of his family; Kayleb deserves to live a normal life free of the court system. #JusticeForKayleb

We are TIRED of ppl on the autism spectrum being treated as “less than” & will not stand for this injustice. Kayleb needs an end to this unfair prosecution. #JusticeForKayleb

Our community is united in this cause & will not stop demanding #JusticeForKayleb! We demand that you listen!

Different, not less! It is NOT a crime to have a difficult day! End these unfair prosecutions NOW! #JusticeForKayleb

Kayleb’s actions were NOT criminal; the REAL crime is how unjustly he has been treated by the school & legal systems. End the unfair prosecution 2day & grant #JusticeForKayleb

Do autistic lives matter? It is hard to tell by the way Kayleb has been unfairly prosecuted; #JusticeForKayleb

Too many children that look like Kayleb and/or share his diagnosis are being taken advantage of by the legal system. This ends NOW! #JusticeForKayleb

Lynchburg County Schools has a poor track record when it comes to non-discrimination; Kayleb’s situation was handled poorly. Don’t make him pay for not being adequately supported! #JusticeForKayleb

Virginia ranks in the top 10 in school quality, but ranks #1 in sending students to law enforcement! That is NOT okay. Stop criminalizing vulnerable students; end Kayleb’s prosecution! #JusticeForKayleb

Optional URLs you can add to tweets and/or statuses if there is room to do so with character limits:

-Ctr for Public Integrity article about the governor requesting cabinet to research into VA’s high rate of law enforcement referrals:

-PopFront USA article, from Zoey G:

-Al Jazeera article about Kayleb:

-Link to article about LCS' discrimination:

-PRI article about Kayleb:
-ASAN Statement Condemning Kayleb's Conviction:
-Intersected Blog Post about Kayleb and Virginia:
-School to Prison Pipeline Article from Nola Times:

-Poem about Kayleb by Alexandra Forshaw:


Optional Images 
(All photo credits: Justice for Kayleb Facebook page)