Despite the fact that HIV is now a treatable medical condition, the majority of U.S. states still have laws on the books that criminalize exposing other people to HIV. Whether or not the virus is transmitted does not matter. Neither does a person’s intention to cause harm. A person simply must be aware of being HIV-positive to be found guilty.
These laws are enforced mainly on marginalized people living in poverty who cannot afford lawyers. The penalties – felony convictions and being placed on sex offender registries – are severe and life altering.
Photos You Should See – September 2021
It is difficult to know exactly how many people are affected by HIV criminal laws, since a central database of such arrests does not exist. The HIV Justice Network has collected a partial list of 2,923 HIV criminal cases since 2008 based on media reports.
I am a professor of social work who studies the impact of HIV criminal laws from the perspective of people who have been arrested. My research shows such statutes are outdated, harm people living with HIV and exacerbate the spread of the virus by driving people into hiding and away from treatment services.