The research for this report originated as part of a larger project focused on human rights violations related to HIV/AIDS in the southern United States. For that project hundreds of individuals were interviewed throughout the South during the period July 2009-October 2010. In December 2010 Human Rights Watch released the briefing paper “Southern Exposure: HIV and Human Rights in the Southern United States” highlighting the intersection of socio-economic conditions and human rights abuses that make that region the nation’s epicenter of HIV/AIDS. Because socio-economic conditions and policies in Mississippi exemplify many of the findings of that report, the more than 65 interviews conducted in Mississippi became the subject of this report. Human Rights Watch interviewed approximately 40 people living with HIV/AIDS, both individually and in groups, with all interviews occurring with the consent of all participants. Pseudonyms are used for all people living with HIV quoted in the report in order to protect their privacy and confidentiality.
Human Rights Watch also interviewed HIV advocates and employees of HIV service organizations, health care providers, HIV case workers, public health officials, state legislators, teachers, and members of the judiciary. The Mississippi Department of Health cooperated fully with Human Rights Watch and provided planning and other documents for review. All documents referenced in this report are publicly available or on file with Human Rights Watch.
The findings of the report were discussed with the State Health Officer and staff of the STD/HIV Office of the Department of Health while the report was still in draft form. Human Rights Watch repeatedly requested meetings with the Office of the Governor to discuss the findings of the report but received no response.