Thursday, May 28, 2015

Falling Forward Part 1

HIV Criminalization
The Wrecking Ball Case of Michael Johnson

COP 24/7 spent considerable time dedicated to the HIV criminalization of case of Michael Johnson who was found guilty on May 15 and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Johnson 23, was a former wrestling star and student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri before his world
collided with the judicial system that demonized him as "recklessly infecting," a consensual partner and exposing four others to the virus.

The case became a sensation that fueled colorful discussion as well as outrage that even consisted of such talk of "killing those infected" or "branding" them with the words "HIV. On blogs like labeled Johnson as the "HIV Buck," in reference to his online profile of "Tiger Mandingo," of which he used to promote himself.  Through all the noise of his case and the aftermath of his conviction, there still lies the work necessary to repeal or reform these laws that exist in 32 states and two territories including Arkansas. According to the United Nation's Global Commission on HIV and Law, the US leads the world with such persecutions.

In article posted on The Nation website it cited that most of these laws were enacted at the height of the epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s—before life-saving antiretrovirals were introduced—and as such they do not reflect modern science, which has made an HIV diagnosis a chronic but manageable condition. For example: The goal of aggressive antiretroviral therapy is to suppress a viral load—the amount of HIV in a sample of blood—to become “undetectable.” Once a positive person has achieved viral suppression, that person is extremely unlikely to transmit HIV to a sex partner. But criminalization laws do not take this into account.

Nor do these laws make sense as a deterrent from supposedly “reckless” behavior. The overwhelming body of research, going back more than a decade, has established that the vast majority of new infections each year are contracted from someone who does not know that they are HIV positive. “Nearly 92 percent” of new infections “likely occur after contact with people who don’t know they carry HIV or do not receive treatment,” according to a February 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention.

People who are unaware of their serostatus cannot take steps to prevent transmission. Thus the enormous push, from the federal government down to community-based organizations, to create greater access to testing, and to decrease the fear and considerable stigma associated with a positive diagnosis. Less fear means more testing. Criminalization laws—and the headline-grabbing, racially loaded prosecutions such as the one faced by Michael Johnson—directly undermine this effort in the same communities where the epidemic remains most acute. Those communities are disproportionately African American.

This forum has posted numerous items, links videos and assorted material related to this dilemma and other challenges to those living with HIV. Despite those post as well as recognizing other efforts to raise awareness around this penalizing law, currently there is no action or movements toward addressing this matter. COP 24/7 will continue to research, post and seek to engage interested parties to elevate this issue on advocacy agenda across the state.

Here Media Launches New Platform

Here Media Inc. has launched the new social network, “a content and conversation destination where pride belongs to everyone,” according to a press release. “ gives millennials new tools to amplify their digital voices, raise their social profiles, and lead inspiring conversations fuelled by timely, entertaining content.”

Our mission is to create fun and entertaining content for a new generation of LGBTs and their social circles, as well as be a place for positive, inspiring conversation,” explained Robert Hebert, Here Media’s director of consumer marketing, in a statement. “ will promote emerging voices and move the culture forward through stories and videos that our audience is proud to engage with and share.”’s “priority is to report on currently trending topics and prominently features user-submitted comments, content, and photography. In addition, publishes bite-sized stories, clever and comical listicles, and original video content — all connected to top-trending hashtags,” according to a press release. was developed by Livefyre, a San Francisco-based technology company. “The site uses real-time interactions to inform its editorial focus and promotion, leveraging conversations to create real-time social experiences. Members use their existing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Google+ profiles to instantly log in and engage with other members around the content that matters most to them,” according to the press release. 

"Sharing our content helps you be proud of who you are, no matter which social media account you're using, because reflects your life,” said Here Media editorial director Lucas Grindley in a statement. “So many people have told us during the conception of that, finally, here's a site that truly reflects who I am and what I love. isn't just for one kind of person; it is for everyone." 

Attention Advertisers! The READ is ready to take your order for the June Issue. If your business, organization, company or service wants to show some pride while connecting with statewide audience, call us today at 379-8203! Do it today!!


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