Regarding the Post-Dispatch article “Missouri’s HIV laws were written in the 1980s. Do they need an update?” (Nov. 26):
The answer is yes. As president and CEO of Doorways, an interfaith agency providing housing and services to people living with HIV/AIDS, I propose that expanded resources replace criminalization. HIV is a public health problem prevalent in poor communities. Missouri’s HIV law — and similar ones in 33 states — need updates to align with current facts. It is possible to achieve an undetectable viral load, minimizing the risk of transmission, but supportive services are essential for viral suppression. For 30 years, we have watched our residents transform from critically ill neighbors to thriving members of the community.
With more than 15 prosecutions/arrests for HIV exposure in Missouri since 2008, the number of Missourians living with HIV is increasing — from 9,877 in 2008 to more than 12,000 today. While a portion of this increase reflects medical advances, increased criminal justice intervention has not delivered significant results, and may be contributing to the problem as it discourages testing and treatment. The earlier they know their status, the earlier they may begin treatment and responsibly adapt behaviors — a factor this law ignores, but we witness daily: People do not want to transmit the virus and take great pride in regaining and maintaining their health.
There is too much public discourse around the containment of people living with HIV, and not enough around the trauma of living with HIV and the support needed to manage their health. On World AIDS Day 2018, let us take a moment to reflect on the great accomplishments in these last 30 years in the fight against HIV/AIDS and commit ourselves to re-humanizing our attention to the disease and those affected by it.
Opal M. Jones • St. Louis
Doorways president and CEO