Several years ago, I published a blog, “ Rev. Prep” as my personal, public statement affirming that one can be religious and gay and sexual and engaged in promoting safer sex. Although I use a different medication now (Descovy), I am still on and committed to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis i.e. anti-HIV medication) as a non-gendered, non-political, non-sexual orientation based strategy to reduce HIV in the world. I’ve included a link to the earlier blog HERE as a counter narrative to what feels like the opening salvo in a return to the trenches of the war on sex, sexuality, embodiment and health care that we fought in the first wave of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s.
With the Texas ruling that exempts employers from providing HIV prevention medication (PrEP) based on religious belief ( read the ruling HERE), a judge who has no medical or religious training (that I know of) is legislating what it means to be a human being. Ask anyone outside of the United States and they will tell you that HIV is not about sexuality; it is about humanity. But we live in a country that has a long history of trying to criminalize the sexuality and various lifestyles of its citizens on a religious basis. The ruling includes the following language claiming that the ACA’s provision for preventive care:
“violated [the plaintiffs’] religious beliefs by making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior, drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and woman”
The last time I checked, all human beings have blood and blood didn’t have sexual preference, nor could blood get married. HIV only cares that you have blood and that you are in a living human body. The idea that any law designed to protect any and all embodied human beings (i.e. health care) is subject to a religious test is terrifying…and it is not surprising. The Supreme Court did this in the recent Dobbs decision on abortion by codifying the religiously driven language of “unborn human” in the decision, making what several religious traditions consider a judicial decision about what and when constitutes human life. (M. Cathleen Kaveny’s article in Religion and Politics offers some insight.)
Many secular advocates ( Center for HIV Law & Policy, ACLU, etc.) have been working tirelessly to resist this tide. Their work has largely kept things at bay, but it is not enough. The direction that our courts and laws are heading is being driven by a fairly small, radically conservative portion of the population that recognizes a gap in the wall of “separation between church and state.”  That gap is where liberal and progressive people of faith could be. But too many are worried about not offending anyone, and building consensus, or tearing apart their families that include religious conservatives. Too many are just sitting there wringing their hands and then heading to brunch.
If socially liberal people of faith don’t make a bigger stink about the slow march to theocracy and find some guts to put skin in the game, we will have no choices. We will be back in the 18 th century dealing with laws that criminalize fornication or worse that allow for someone accused of “witchcraft” to be put to death. Oh, wait…we still do that.
God forbid should this map ever include 50 states that criminalize HIV. But, if more liberal religious folks aren’t willing to get out of their comfort zones, we’re f**ked.