TN HIV Modernization Coalition
Advocating for just and evidence-based laws and policies.
Lashanda Salinas, a native of Hartsville, Tennessee, has been living with HIV for over 25 years. She is an active member of the Tennessee HIV Modernization Coalition, a Health Not Prisons advocate, and a member of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Council of Justice Leaders.
Lashanda is the first person to have sex offender registration requirement terminated as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 807 and House Bill 832.
A Go Fund Me account has been established to support Lashanda in her advocacy work.
Tennessee HIV Modernization Coalition
The Tennessee HIV Modernization Coalition is a grassroots group of volunteers comprised of people with HIV, HIV service providers and public health and legal policy leaders working to together to modernize Tennessee’s HIV-related criminal statutes.
HIV Criminal Laws in Tennessee
Tennessee has two statutes that apply only to people with HIV.
Aggravated Prostitution TCA 39-13-516: If you know you are HIV positive and you engage in sex work it is a Class C felony (3 to 15 years). Passed in 1991.
Criminal Exposure to HIV TCA 39-13-109: If you know you are HIV positive or have viral hepatitis and (1) engage in “intimate contact” without first disclosing your status, (2) donate blood, tissue, organs, or semen, or (3) share needles, it is a Class C felony (3 to 15 years). Passed in 1994.
Sex Offender Registry TCA 40-39-202: People arrested for aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure to HIV are required to register as lifetime violent sex offenders.
HIV is no longer a death sentence. It is a chronic, treatable disease.
A person who takes antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed, and gets and stays virally suppressed, not only can live a long and healthy life but also will not transmit HIV to sexual partners.
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill taken by HIV-negative people to prevent HIV infection, reduces the risk of acquiring HIV sexually by 99% when taken daily.
Major medical and scientific advances have made HIV a manageable long-term condition. The American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and the U.S. Department of Justice each advocate for repealing or revising state laws that criminalize non-disclosure of HIV status.
HIV Criminal laws do not reduce rates of HIV.
Criminalization laws undermine public health HIV prevention efforts by discouraging people from knowing their HIV status due to increased stigma, shame and the fear of prosecution.
Laws are not punishing HIV transmission.
Transmission is rare. Arrest is due to an allegation of failure to disclose. No evidence is necessary for conviction other than a person knows that they have HIV.
The severity level of punishment is unwarranted.
An arrest for either HIV statute is a felony requiring lifetime registration as a violent sex offender.
HIV Laws overwhelmingly impact minorities and marginalized populations.
The total number of people living with HIV in Tennessee was 18,069; of those, 10,179 or 56% were African American or black (TDOH, 2020).
"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together"