A prolific author and blogger, LaShawn Fowler hones his energies on encouraging other HIVers to disclose. Once incarcerated for securities fraud, the 41-year-old Michigander has recently headed back to court, this time to file a civil suit against a Bible publisher for mental anguish and emotional duress for its Bible's translation and word choices in passages widely believed to condemn homosexuality.
What motivated you to sue a Bible publisher?
The Bible does not discriminate. No one knows who goes up to heaven and who goes down to the world below. So when they [published those antigay words], that was more or less discrimination. I looked at the laws for First Amendment freedom of press. The Supreme Court ruled that not all things that are printed are protected. Anything that conveys a message that is [defamation] ' that incites a riot, that incites violence ' is not protected.
You filed this suit on your own. Do you have any legal training?
I've taken paralegal courses, so I was abreast of how to file the claim from that.
You are on a 'disclosure campaign' in your blog. What inspired this?
I think it's important that people who are HIV-positive take the responsibility and disclose with their potential sexual partners. The only way a person is being infected is by someone who is already infected.
You've written one novel and are finishing another. What are they about?
I just finished one based on the civil complaint that I filed against the Bible publisher, and I bring out issues and scriptures that were brought up in the case in an entertaining way.
And the novel you're finishing now?
The main character is a medical student whose uncle dies of AIDS, and he becomes interested in finding a cure. During the process of him playing around in the lab, he gets pricked with a needle and gets infected with HIV himself. It provokes him to want to gain access to a cure faster than normal.
You've said when you first found out you were HIV-positive, you were in denial for some time. What gave you a sense of acceptance?
My attitude about the whole scenario of being positive was very nonchalant. I knew I was sexually active, and I knew I wasn't using precautions to protect myself from being infected. [After my diagnosis] then I started taking medicine and I became a certified HIV educator and counselor through the Michigan department of community health. And once I started learning more about the virus, that's when I said, 'This is more serious than I've given it credit.' That's when I started getting serious about it.
What are the main pieces of advice that you've given to people in your other book ' the one about how to disclose your HIV status?
Disclose your status without being afraid. Relinquish all fear about being positive. Maintain a positive attitude. And continue to live your life as if you have no tomorrow.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your work fighting HIV?
Helping others. Utilizing my mind, standing up and being honest about my diagnosis, and having an ability to speak out when others refuse to ' or are afraid to. I think it's something that a lot of people who are infected should take heed of.