Create and pass Mina's Law because people with HIV are #NotYourInfection!!!
Mina is a sweet, kind, and thoughtful 12 year old. She loves K-pop music, science, chocolate, dancing, peace signs, silly Vine videos, and hanging out with her friends. She is loving and compassionate, and she is hardworking and strong. She's not much different than most tween girls you'd meet with one small exception, which is that she is HIV positive.
This is 2015, NOT the '80's, and society now has a clear understanding of how HIV is and is not transmitted. Also, HIV has evolved from a "death sentence" to a manageable chronic illness such as diabetes or other conditions. People living with HIV (PLHIV) now have a life expectancy and quality that is similar to that of individuals without HIV, and we are closer to a cure or functional cure than ever before.
I've grown increasingly disturbed over the years how frequently and callously the word "infected" is thrown around with regard to HIV. While HIV is indeed classified among the category of infectious diseases, so is measles, strep throat, meningitis, the flu, malaria, hepatitis, RSV, cellulitis, H. pylori, staph (MRSA), shingles, appendicitis, and a host of other things. They are also "infections," yet they are described quite differently - in a far more respectful manner.
Just think about it for a moment. Would YOU want to be referred to as "infected?" That term doesn't exactly conjure up pleasant images in my mind when I hear it. It makes me think of illness. It makes me think of something bad, something undesirable, like a wound oozing with pus. It certainly doesn't cause me to picture Mina's joyful, radiant smile.
I have raised my family with the truth that there is no shame in the diagnosis and no reason to be perceived as less than anyone else who does not have HIV. But the presence of the term "infected" in sentence after sentence, every single day in millions of interactions and important documents negates my teaching and perpetuates stigma.
I am calling upon our nation to take the lead in helping to eradicate stigma by creating and passing Mina's Law. Mina's Law would mandate the removal of the HIV-stigmatizing language that exists in our legal documents. It is my hope to do my part to make this happen by launching Mina's Law: the #NotYourInfection Campaign on World AIDS Day 2014, inspired by the millions of people living - NOT dying - with HIV every day. People like Mina.
Mina is HIV positive, but she is #NotYourInfection, and neither is anyone else living with HIV!
It is 2014. A new day, a new era. It's time to change the way we refer to PLHIV and to change the way we refer to HIV itself. There is no valid reason that I can see that in the United States of America our legal statutes, court documents, and other areas are still using language that is not inclusive on the federal and state levels.
It will take a lot more manpower, activism, legal expertise, and media than an ordinary individual like me has to make these changes. I CANNOT do this alone; I need YOUR help.
The petition letter states: "...We respectfully request the appointment of a formal group to work with national HIV community organizations and advocates to address the issue of stigmatizing language in Federal and State laws. The work of this group should result in the drafting and formal proposal of one or more bills to change references in laws that unintentionally perpetuate HIV stigma. References such as "HIV infected," "infected with HIV," or "HIV infections" should be replaced with non-stigmatizing phrases such as "HIV positive," "contracted HIV," or "HIV diagnoses."
Will you help me make this a reality? The way we speak about and write about HIV influences how we view HIV itself and people with it. Please sign and widely share our Change.org petition. Every time it is signed a copy of the petition and comments is emailed directly to the members of Congress and to the President of the United States! (The Office of National AIDS Policy and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions also receive a copy.)
On behalf of my family and the global HIV community, THANK YOU for your support and help showing the world that PLHIV are #NotYourInfection!!!
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