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How do we end HIV/AIDS? Start by treating people as humans, not criminals.

Though HIV infection rates have been on the decline overall, some countries are still struggling. Here's how law enforcement can help.

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Open Society Foundations

Fighting the spread of HIV might come from an unexpected source: law enforcement.

How? For starters, by treating people like people.

What do we mean? Check it out:


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Though HIV infection rates have been on the decline in much of the world, certain population groups are actually experiencing an increase in new infections.

There are roughly 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS; more than half aren't aware that they are HIV+. Economic factors play a huge role in pinpointing areas experiencing high rates of new infections.

The problem is made worse through a combination of stigma, financial hardship, and perhaps surprisingly, law enforcement.

When treated, HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was. One of the reasons the virus continues to thrive in certain parts of the world, however, stems from the fact that law enforcement groups have a habit of targeting people at the highest risk — such as sex workers or intravenous drug users.

But why would you make it harder for people — real human beings — to protect themselves? Doesn't that go against the purpose of law enforcement?

In a number of countries, being caught by police with syringes or even just condoms has been used as evidence that someone is (or plans to) commit a crime. Up until May 2014, police confiscating condoms from suspected sex workers to use as evidence was standard even in New York City. Doing this increases the likelihood of someone engaging in high-risk, minimal-protection activity.

But why would you make it harder for people — real human beings — to protect themselves? Doesn't that go against the purpose of law enforcement?

Image of a sign in Simonga Village, Zambia. Photo by Jon Rawlinson/Flickr.

Needle exchanges and condom distribution programs have been a huge success.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed needle exchanges and methadone maintenance programs as effective ways to combat new HIV infections among intravenous drug users. Syringe exchange programs basically give a safe way to dispose of used syringes and obtain sterile syringes at no cost.

They found that police-supported needle exchanges, combined with on-site HIV screenings, lead to a reduction in new infections.

Photo of clean needles from a needle exchange program in Washington state. Photo by Joe Mabel/Wikimedia.

The same goes for free condom distribution programs, which have been found to significantly affect condom use behaviors, making a drastic reduction in HIV and STI transmission. Again, like the needle exchange programs, these are only effective if done right, with support of law enforcement and local government.

Like all things, it starts with building trust.

"By supporting programs that work with the key populations to reduce their risk of HIV infection, law enforcement officials can make a significant contribution to public health and public safety and ensure that the fundamental right to health of all citizens is protected." — United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime

Law enforcement agencies cannot be seen as enemies to sex workers and IV drug users. Community outreach is important, and decriminalizing these nonviolent crimes and showing good faith support to those engaging in these activities is key to building trust. So long as drug users and sex workers worry that they risk arrest with each police interaction, there will be no true trust.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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