If you thought smear tactics and mudslinging were bad on the national level during election season, consider the University of Houston–Downtown, where someone recently revealed very private details about openly-gay campus government hopeful Kristopher Sharp. Namely his HIV-positive status.
Sharp is a third-year social work major at UHD, running for student body vice-president. Late last week, he was called into the Dean of Students’ office where he was handed a campaign flyer made by his opponents. Copies were spread in stairwells and bulletin boards all around campus, but this was the first time Sharp had seen it.
The front of the flyer showed a picture of Sharp with a large “X” slashed through it. “WANT AIDS?” the flyer read. “DON’T SUPPORT THE Isaac and Kris HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA.”
The back of the flyer copied Sharp’s medical records, confirming that he is HIV positive.
“What was going through my head was, ‘How quickly can I transfer?'” he told the Houston Press. “There’s a culture at UHD that is somewhat less accepting of LGBT youth, but something of this magnitude is completely mind-blowing. I knew, going into the election, that I could possibly be targeted because of my sexuality — but I had no idea that it would go to this level.”
The University has done its job, gathering the flyers and investigating the incident. UHD spokesperson Claire Caton said that the school prides itself for reflecting diversity, and that this kind of thing is abnormal.
“We’re really known for diversity, for welcoming all students — this hits at core of one of the central aspects of who we are. … We’re just taking all appropriate steps, and I have full confidence in UHD police. They are doing everything possible to get to bottom of this.”
Sharp says he’s 95 percent sure he knows who leaked his medical records, and that it’s someone currently in student government with access to such files. Whoever is caught for this personal violation won’t be outed by Sharp, though.
“I don’t think I’m serving anybody justice by ostracizing them,” Sharp says. “Since I’ve had time to reflect, I’ve actually decided, when they find out, that I don’t really want to press any criminal charges. I just want an apology. And I’m going to wait for that.”