So this story went viral this week and shows how in terms of HIV education, we have a long way to go.
Shalandra Jones, an HIV-positive woman won a 40,000 dollars court settlement this week against the city of Dearborn, Michigan. Three years ago, she was stopped by a policeman because of a broken tail light. The police officer smelled marijuana in her car and proceeded to search the car and her purse. In the process, he found her HIV medication and asked her what it was for. She told him she was HIV-positive and this upset him because she had not told him before he started going through her belongings. Shalandra had a prescription for medical marijuana, but her prescription card had just expired. Here is part of the news coverage of Shalandra’s story:
Here is Shalandra being interviewed about the traffic stop:
Below is the video of the police dashboard camera recording, it is 30 minutes long but if you skip ahead to 15 minutes, you will get to the point where the police officer pulls on gloves and says some “unpleasant” things to her about her failure to disclose her status to him at the beginning of the traffic stop.
Disclosing a HIV status to a police officer is not required by law and the police officer had unfounded fears about acquiring the illness from touching MS Jones belongings and taking it home to his wife and children. Clearly we still have a long way to go in terms of educating the general public and those who serve them about HIV and how it is transmitted.
HIV stigma is an ongoing issue that will continue to haunt us and mostly those who are HIV-positive. However, stories such as Shalandra’s lets us into the personal and human side of being HIV-positive and what life can be like when confronted by stigma and discrimination. By now, one would think that professionals such as the police who come into contact with body fluids during the conduct of their jobs are well trained about HIV and its mode of transmission. From Shalandra’s story, it appears that this is not so because the police officer had unfounded fears of touching her and her belongings.
Shalandra had let me know of this case some months ago, and I am happy that she has been able to raise more awareness about the illness by standing up for herself and other HIV-positive persons. Stay strong Shalandra, I and many others applaud you for what you have done. Let’s all continue our advocacy and educational efforts across the globe in order to keep persons informed and updated about the illness. Any role we play, however small, has the capability to teach/reach at least one other person and let them know something new or update them about the illness.
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