Thomas Lister, the gay man at the center of a recent California AIDS legal case, has embarked on a national speaking campaign designed to educate young people about the prevention of HIV transmission. Included on his itinerary are colleges and universities across the country, beginning with institutions located in the Southeastern. Lister's tour kicks off September 11 in Atlanta with an interactive workshop at the seventh annual "Staying Alive" conference organized by the National Association of People With AIDS. His talk, "The Disclosure Dilemma," will address the many emotional, moral, and legal issues that HIV-positive people face when confronted with revealing that status to sexual partners, family, friends, and health care providers.
"It's disheartening to see rates of new HIV infections increase 20 years into the epidemic," says Lister. "But too often, HIV-positive people are selectively disclosing their status, depending on the particular situation or relationship. And sadly, many are hesitant to disclose because they fear rejection or reprisal. My goal is to attempt to break down these barriers to communication and the stigmas and shame associated with being HIV-positive."
In December 2003 a San Francisco superior court judge, citing insufficient evidence of "intent," dismissed criminal charges brought by Lister and another complainant against Ron Hill, a former San Francisco health commissioner. Hill had been charged with two counts of "knowingly exposing another to HIV," a felony under California laws. Lister says he had unprotected sex with Hill after Hill told him he was not HIV-positive. Lister says he found out Lister was lying when he discovered Hill's anti-HIV medications during a vacation. Lister has since tested positive for HIV infection.