HIV is not a crime! (except in 32 states and 72 countries)
The following is blog, written by FCAA’s Executive Director, John Barnes, which appeared on The Funders for Justice blog on April 4, 2017.
Even many AIDS advocates and people living with HIV are surprised to learn that HIV IS a crime in 32 US states and 72 countries around the world, with new laws being enacted every year. Since these laws have begun to appear, at the beginning of the epidemic, over 600 prosecutions of people with HIV, more than half of those in the United States. In fact, just this week the Utah House of representatives passed HB 369, which, if enacted, will make sexual contact by an HIV+ person without disclosure of status a first-degree felony rape.
Many laws attempt to criminalize HIV transmission without regard to whether transmission has occurred, or was even possible. In the U.S., for example, decades- long prison sentences have been issued to HIV+ people for biting or spitting on police officers, although these acts bear no risk of HIV transmission. Additionally, HIV+ people who are on treatment and have undetectable viral loads are not infectious to their partners; however, these facts are not considered mitigating circumstances in prosecuting and convicting people with HIV. Unconfirmed accusations from spurned lovers that their partners did not disclose their HIV status have led to 30-year prison sentences for the accused parties. Many of the laws used to convict people with HIV of crimes also come with a lifelong label of “sex offender” which adds immeasurable additional stigma. HIV+ status also adds to the seriousness of many alleged crimes, taking misdemeanors to felonies and adding years to prison sentences. Ironically, the only defense against many of these laws is not knowing your HIV status, which provides a huge disincentive to the public health priority of getting people at risk tested.
Read the full post here.