As you and I relax here surfing the internet, an HIV positive man is sitting in a Texas prison, serving a 35 year sentence for spitting on someone. In Michigan, an HIV positive man was charged for not disclosing his status under a bio-terrorism statute. And just weeks ago, Nadja Benaissa, an HIV positive German pop star, barely escaped prison when a judge gave her a suspended sentence for not disclosing to her sexual partners.
This is an emotional issue that carries some baggage. Many of us have a friend who was infected by someone who lied about their status or didn’t disclose, and these infuriating instances make me want to see those people “pay” for what they did. But the more I have learned about the criminalization of HIV status non-disclosure, the more I am convinced these laws are applied badly and actually do more harm than good. If I don’t get tested, I can’t be prosecuted for not disclosing my status, right?
At the 2010 Gay Men’s Health Summit in Ft Lauderdale, I spoke with POZ Magazine founder Sean Strub following his workshop on criminalization. Sean is the force behind the Positive Justice Project, which advocates against HIV criminalization as part of the HIV/AIDS Center for Law and Policy.
Sean does a terrific job at explaining the harm to public health created by criminalization laws. I’d also like to mention the great work being done by Edwin Bernard in Europe and AIDS Map regarding this issue. HIVPlus Magazine writer Ben Ryan did a strong piece on this early last year. And of course, The Body has a wide collection of postings on this issue.
Do you support laws that criminalize people who don’t disclose their status before sex? Should they be repealed? I’ll be interested in your reactions to this interview!
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