You Care About HIV Criminalization (You Just Don’t Know It Yet)

On Sunday, June 24, 2018, Visual AIDS participated in the NYC Pride March, distributing over 7,500 copies of a newly commissioned broadsheet project designed to educate people about the high stakes of HIV criminalization.

Artist, activist, ACT UP alumnus, and founding member of the Silence = Death and Gran Fury collectives Avram Finkelstein [A&U, Jan. 2018] created YOU CARE ABOUT HIV CRIMINALIZATION (YOU JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET), a site-specific project for Visual AIDS and the 2018 New York City Pride March. Finkelstein, whose work hangs in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, is also the author of the recently published After Silence—A History of AIDS Through Its Images, detailing the history and the meaning of the famous Silence = Death poster and other artistic responses to the AIDS crisis.

In a prepared release, Visual AIDS said that it “has been deeply inspired by the significant strides made by activists working against HIV criminalization over the past several years and hope that this project will raise awareness and inspire people to take action.” According to the Sero Project, the U.S. criminal justice system considers HIV to be “a deadly weapon,” and in many states, “exposing someone to HIV” is a crime, with no regard for whether condoms were used, the positive partner’s viral load or new “U=U” information about viral suppression and transmission, or whether the virus was actually transmitted to the “victim.” A criminal conviction for exposing someone to HIV can carry a prison sentence of thirty years or more, sensationalized media coverage, and life-long registration as a sex offender.

You can join VA’s efforts to advocate against HIV criminalization by printing out and distributing the YOU CARE ABOUT HIV CRIMINALIZATION (YOU JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET) broadside.

For more information about Visual AIDS and, specifically, about the YOU CARE ABOUT HIV CRIMINALIZATION project, log on to: For more on The Sero Project, go to:
—Reporting by Hank Trout

Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.