“It’s just too scary,” Sky Gilbert says to the camera. In a video produced for AIDS Action Now, the famed gay playwright says men won’t get tested for HIV/AIDS because they fear the repercussions that could come from it — including arrest.
In another video, Rahim Thawer, a social worker and activist, says gay men should think twice about going to the police with HIV nondisclosure. “HIV-negative men should probably think about the risks they are comfortable taking way in advance of having any kind of sex.”
Rinaldo Walcott, who teaches gender and sexuality at the University of Toronto, puts it more bluntly: “The only time a police should be in your bedroom is if you are fucking them.”
Their videos, along with about 40 others, are part of AIDS Action Now’s new social media campaign, Think Twice. Organizers asked LGBT community members to explain why they think people should think twice about disclosing someone’s HIV status to the police.
Jordan Bond, a member of the steering committee of AIDS Action Now, says that they have been trying to find a way to reach out to men who have sex with other men, whether they are gay, bisexual or trans. “We want people to be tweeting about [the videos] and talking about them,” he says.
There are too many misconceptions and there is too much stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, according to Cecile Kazatchkine, a policy analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. It isn’t clear to many people how HIV transmission actually works or the progress that has been made in treating the disease.
More than 130 people have been charged for not disclosing their HIV status as of April 2012, according to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website.
“I think that the stigma is contributing to HIV criminalization,” Kazatchkine says.