Press Release: SMART’s 16th Graduation & Catherine Hanssens receiving the John Falkenberg Lifetime Achievement Award




CONTACT: Sam Clare, Project Manager;

New York, NY – May 28, 2014.  Catherine Hanssens, founder and executive director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) has been selected by SMART (Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research & Treatment) as the 2014 recipient of the John Falkenberg Lifetime Achievement Award. The award acknowledges extraordinary individuals who have dedicated their work to improving the health and lives of others by fighting for human rights and social justice.

 “We are deeply honored to give Catherine this award in John Falkenberg’s name, and I know that he would be pleased as well,” says Susan Rodriguez, Founding Director of SMART.  “Catherine has been a true champion for people living with HIV/AIDS. Catherine has been an unwavering activist and advocate for human rights and dignity for all people even in the face of adversity.”

 As director of CHLP, the first national legal resource and strategy center for people with HIV and their advocates, Hanssens has drawn national attention to HIV criminalization – the use of criminal law to penalize people living with HIV for conduct that would be indisputably legal if they did not get tested or know their status.

 She led the development and launch of the Positive Justice Project (PJP), a national coalition working to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV in the criminal justice system.  PJP released the first national consensus statement against HIV criminalization, featuring more than 750 organizational and individual signatories. In response to HIV criminalization, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) passed a resolution on HIV criminalization recommending federal review of HIV-specific laws, and proposed federal legislation – the HIV REPEAL Act – was introduced in Congress to provide incentives for states to explore repeal or reform of laws and practices.

 Most recently, Hanssens co-authored a public policy report, A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV, drawing critical intersectional connections between discrimination and criminalization based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status and HIV status.

 The John Falkenberg Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at SMART’s Graduation Ceremony on June 18th at SCAN LaGuardia Memorial House on 307 East 116th Street, New York, New York.

SMART was founded in 1998 by and for women living with HIV/AIDS in New York City.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life for participants through a gender-specific educational model providing a comprehensive approach to treatment and health education for women and adolescents.


The Center for HIV Law and Policy is a national legal and policy resource and strategy center for people living with HIV and their advocates. CHLP’s mission is to reduce HIV’s impact on vulnerable and marginalized communities by securing the human rights of people affected by HIV.