THE BLOG

HIV and Hatred in Indiana

03/29/2015 02:26 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

If you have been following national U.S. news, this week marked one of the least comprehensible and possibly unconstitutional decisions every put into legislation -- Indiana Governor Pence's signed a bill that allows businesses to discriminate against customers based on their religious beliefs.   

Since Neil Steinberg at the Chicago Sun Times did such a great piece about the hypocrisy and absurdity of religious rules trumping civil rights, I won't even bother to expand. He pretty much sums up the mean-spirited illogic of these religious bullies.  

Meanwhile, there is another story out of Indiana that hasn't been mentioned in this mess and it should. Indiana is in the midst of an HIV crisis, forcing the governor to declare a public health emergency for one county, and hastily sign a temporary retro-fix to change laws on needle exchange. 

So why do I think it has any connection with the hateful anti-gay bill Pence just signed? I have my reasons.  In brief:

1.  Education is virtually nil on sex, STDs or HIV in Indiana, according to Get Real, Indiana.  They teach abstinence in Indiana. They are, in other words, raising a sexually ignorant population of people who will, in years to come, contract more diseases and have more sick children than other parts of the country. Study after study has shown that failure to provide honest information about sex and reproduction leads to poor sexual health in adulthood. One day, your tax dollars will be paying the medical cost for Indiana's inability to adequately care for public health.  (Not that Indiana is alone -- all the states still teaching abstinence face public sexual health crises.)

2.  Homophobic people share a set of untrue beliefs, including the notion that HIV is a gay disease and if you don't do gay sex you won't get it. Read what LISTEN says about HIV denial in IN. Until education on the disease is allowed (and that means discussing anal sex in both sexes, by the way), the current band-aid of a temporary needles program cannot heal what's wrong in that state.  

Governor Pence is accountable for the devastating spike that is rocking South Indiana. As head of the state, he is charged with protecting all his constituents. He should know what the CDC advises on HIV education and needles; he should respect our national health policies.  He should have, at the very least, been on top of this situation before it reached crisis proportions. Yet, just when Indiana was gripped by this potentially deadly disease, he has spent his week glad-handing and rewarding religious zealots and hate-mongers. 

It's obvious where his priorities lie.  I hope voters prioritize having a different governor very soon.