Thursday, February 10, 2011

Montana Legislature: Death penalty for HIV-positive blow-dart wielding prisoners

Posted By on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Montana's nuttier legislators are again garnering national attention. The blogosphere is atwitter after Rep. Janna Taylor, R-Dayton, told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the death penalty is necessary because incarcerated bad guys are finding unique ways to kill people—like, for instance, shooting blow darts covered with HIV-infected blood and saliva.

“There’s new ways to kill, you know,” Taylor said. “If a prisoner is HIV-positive, they make little weapons out of a piece of paper. They take their blood, their saliva and do blow darts on the guards… there are a few people that we need to use the death penalty.”

HIV is not transmitted by saliva and the virus dies quickly when exposed to oxygen. Taylor’s statement, as Intelligent Discontent blogger Don Pogreba points out, is stunningly ill-informed.

“Representative Janna Taylor came along to say something so stupid and offensive that she made Tim Ravndal seem like a rational human being,” Pogreba writes.

Within 24 hours of Taylor’s testimony, HIV educators and queer bloggers mobilized to debunk Taylor’s scare tactics. The New York-based Positive Justice Project, which aims to combat creation of a “viral underclass” comprised of HIV positive people, swiftly issued a release.

According to Positive Justice’s statement:

“Rep. Janna Taylor’s remark is ignorance in the first degree. Quite frankly, it is typical of the ignorance we had to deal with decades ago, early in the epidemic, when little was known about how the virus was transmitted. It is astonishing that an elected official today could be so fundamentally uninformed."

D Gregory Smith, Montana blogger and co-chair of the Montana HIV/AIDS Community Planning Group, had this to say:

“Unfortunately, misinformation such as this is all too prevalent, leading to pointless discrimination and myth-based fears and policies. After 30 years of dealing with HIV, the public should be much better informed about its transmission. No wonder HIV infection rates haven’t stopped.”

With all the misinformation and inanities, the Montana Legislature is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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