Medical guidance and legislation have been at odds for years. HB 1340 has introduced relevant and person-centered language, shifting how we talk about HIV and removing barriers faced by people living with HIV.

By: Tyne Parlett, ACLU of Indiana TEAP Advocate and Director of Community Impact at Damien Center   

HB 1340 has introduced relevant and person-centered language, which has profoundly shifted the ways we talk about living with HIV. The bill modernizes language, which hasn’t been updated in Indiana code since the 1980s, to conform with current medical standards. It would remove barriers faced by people living with HIV who are disproportionately affected by unjust criminal persecutions. The bill also seeks to end the criminalization of blood and semen donation, and would improve access to syringe services. 

Medical guidance and legislation have been at odds for years. People with suppressed viral loads are living normal lives and are unable to transmit HIV to others. The change in legislation brought about by the HIV Modernization movement and Representative Clere’s support of HB 1340, would allow people living with HIV to feel protected from stigma and unjust criminal penalties that are archaic and damaging to already vulnerable community members.   

In Indiana, ISDH reported over 12,000 individuals living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2018. Through my work in HIV at the Damien Center, the city’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization, it has become remarkably clear that the criminalization of HIV remains the largest barrier to accessing supportive care for these individuals. Commonly, people living with HIV face discrimination in housing, healthcare, and food security. For decades, HIV service organizations have been battling the barriers faced by those we serve. However, without legislative protections, more often than not our work fails to disrupt systems of power that keep people living with HIV vulnerable.   

In the 2021 legislative session, Representative Clere has been supported through the work of Dr. Carrie Foote in penning HB 1340, which passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. While this was not the first time that HIV bills have been introduced, this was the first win in the fight for HIV decriminalization in Indiana. HB 1340 would improve access to vital resources that are desperately needed in vulnerable communities impacted by HIV. I look forward to seeing it supported in the Senate. 

Representative Clere, Dr. Carrie Foote, and all of the service agencies involved in this work, are playing a critical role in the movement to end the stigma, stop the epidemic, and demand better legislation for all people living with HIV.