Monday, October 29, 2012

The Issue of the Criminalization of HIV Status


There are 35 states in the United States that attach some form of criminalization to those with HIV as opposed to all other STD's. These statutes have to do with those with HIV being forthcoming about their HIV status prior to engaging in sexual activity. Of course, these laws don't deal well with the reality of HIV status, as in when was your last test, are you in a window period, etc. 

Another thing the laws don't care to address is personal responsibility. If you're ready to believe the HIV or other status of someone you're about to engage in sexual activity with, you're taking a big risk, regardless of what you're told. Be personally responsible and protect yourself regardless...

Louisiana and Iowa are only two of 35 states with criminal statutes that apply solely to those with HIV. Other sexually transmitted infections can, if untreated, cause serious harm or death, but only HIV gets these special criminal statutes. There is no evidence showing these statutes reduce HIV transmission, and there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates how they are making the epidemic worse.

A recent survey of over 2,000 people with HIV in the U.S. conducted by the Sero Project, reveals these consequences. Nearly a quarter of respondents knew at least one person who was afraid to take an HIV test for fear of prosecution if they tested positive. Nearly half believe that such fears are reasonable. 

The survey paints a dismal picture of a disabling legal environment for people with HIV in the U.S. Over 60 percent of people with HIV don't know whether or not their state has an HIV-specific disclosure statute; nearly half don't know what behaviors put them in legal jeopardy, and 38 percent personally fear being falsely accused of not disclosing their HIV status. If facing charges, nearly 80 percent are uncertain they would get a fair hearing in court.

These criminal statutes were intended to reduce HIV transmission by making people afraid to not disclose their status. Our findings suggest the opposite effect: many people at risk may prefer to not get tested for HIV, rather than risk being accused of non-disclosure if they tested positive.
 
These new HIV laws are, by some standards, having the opposite effect of what's intended...

These criminal statutes were intended to reduce HIV transmission by making people afraid to not disclose their status. Our findings suggest the opposite effect: many people at risk may prefer to not get tested for HIV, rather than risk being accused of non-disclosure if they tested positive. 

These statutes heighten the already-pervasive stigma around HIV, while doing nothing to facilitate disclosure. In fact, when we asked 200 people with HIV what motivates them to disclose their HIV status to a sex partner, most cited basic moral or ethical reasons like honesty or a desire to protect their partner. Less than 1 percent cited the law as a primary motivation for disclosure.

Read more HERE

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