URGENT! Oppose Texas #HIV criminalization #SB779

The state of Texas is on the verge of taking a gigantic leap backward. There is a state bill, Senate Bill 779, that 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.

Fortunately, state advocacy organizations and HIV activists are already hard at work. Leaders from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition will be traveling to the state capitol in Austin on Monday, March 9th to attend a State Affairs Committee hearing for Senate Bill 779 (#SB779) and voice their opposition.  We are grateful - AND fortunate - to have people at the ready who are going to take action against this proposed infringement of justice But more action is needed. 

We need MORE people to come to the hearing on Monday morning to express their objection to this bill if possible. The hearing will occur at 9 am in Senate Chamber 2E.8. The information for the hearing can be found HERE. If your schedule permits, please consider attending! 

However, if you cannot physically attend the hearing, there are other ways that you can help. We ALL need to contact the members of the State Affairs Committee and let them know that this bill is problematic and does not need to be implemented. Please read below for a few different ways you can help!

The Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition has already created and distributed a concise, helpful script of talking points for people to use to send emails and/or place calls to the Committee members. This script is available below and the contact information for the Committee members is provided as well (name, phone number, email address, and Twitter handle). 

We need to generate a lot of attention before Monday morning's hearing. 

Can we count on you to help send an email and/or place a call? This affects us all, whether HIV+ or HIV-; whether you live in Texas or whether you live in a different state or country. This bill sets a dangerous precedent and also sets the stage for possible HIV specific bills and/or criminalization laws for Texas in the future.

Finally, in addition to emailing or calling, we have created some sample tweets that we hope you will consider using...we want to harness the power of social media to register our outrage and our opposition. Feel free to create your own tweets too, but these are free for anyone who wishes to use them! They are available below. You can also save the following images and tweet them out as well. If creating your own tweets and posts, PLEASE be certain to use key hashtags in your tweets, especially  #TXHIV and #SB779, but also consider #TXlege, and/or #HIVisnotacrime in your tweets if you have enough character space.  

And don't stop at Twitter; cover Facebook, Instagram, tumblr, blogs, message boards, email list serves, etc with this message too.  #HIVisNOTacrime, and we need to STOP #SB779 NOW. Please help us!

State Affairs Committee Members' Contact Info:

Chair – Joan Huffman

Vice Chair – Rodney Ellis

Brian Birdwell

Brandon Creighton

Craig Estes

Troy Fraser

Jane Nelson

Charles Schwertner

Judith Zaffirini

Sample Script for Emails and Calls:

Hello, my name is ______________________________ and I am contacting your office to express my opposition to Senate Bill 779, amending the Health and Safety Code, currently being considered by the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday, March 9, 2015 at 9am. I am opposed to this bill for the following reasons:

1. The proposed bill is an invasion of privacy because HIV test results are private medical records and should not be disclosed for the purpose of criminal prosecution;

2. People with HIV should not be accorded less privacy rights than someone with any other communicable disease; 

3. The proposed bill will discourage HIV testing and treatment by instilling fear that HIV test results could be subpoenaed and used in criminal prosecutions;

4. The proposed bill perpetuates stigma and discrimination by treating people living with HIV differently; and 

5. HIV is not a crime; it is a public health concern and requires public health solutions and not criminal penalties.  

For the reasons stated above, I urge you to vote NO on SB 779.  

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sample Tweets 

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

#HIV+ Texans have a right to the same privacy as Texans w/out HIV. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#Creating fear & shame will NOT help us #Get2Zero in #TX. OPPOSE #SB779! #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

#HIV tests are private & only the person tested should reveal their test results; NO to #SB779. #texlege #TXHIV #HIVisnotacrime

Supplemental Images

Photo credit:actupny,com 

Photo credit:amplifyyourvoice.org

Photo credit: thestigmaproject.org

Photo credit: HIVisnotacrime.com; marksking.com

Photo credit: quipsnquills,com

Photo credit:seroproject.com

Photo credit:preventionjustice.org

Photo credit:huffingtonpost.com

Photo credit:marksking.com

Photo credit:skintop.wordpress.com

Photo credit:ugandaempowers.org

Photo credit: Legacy Community Health; Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition