A man in Chicago has been accused of not disclosing to his partner that he was HIV-positive, despite knowing he was infected, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The 25-year-old has been charged by Cook County prosecutors with criminal transmission of HIV. According to prosecutors, he allegedly engaged in unprotected sex with his partner after repeatedly denying that he was infected.
The man is now being held in jail on a $75,000 bail. In the state of Illinois, knowingly exposing a person to HIV is considered a Class 2 felony, and is subject to three to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
According to the CDC, more than 30 U.S. states have criminal HIV transmission laws, most of which were implemented during the early years of the AIDS crisis, which punish people who knowingly — and sometimes unknowingly — expose their partners to HIV without disclosing their statuses beforehand, even if their partners do not contract the virus. Punishments can range from hefty fines, to mandating a person register as a sex offender, to as much as 25 years in prison.
But are these sorts of laws fair or even effective? Many HIV/AIDS activists say no.
In October 2012, the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America called for the repeal of all laws criminalizing HIV, writing: “Policies and laws that create HIV-specific crimes or that impose penalties for persons who are HIV-infected are unjust and harmful to public health around the world.” It also argued that the laws only contribute to stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Sean Strub of the Sero Project, a group that is dedicated to fighting HIV stigma, echoed this sentiment this week when he told Windy City Times, “HIV criminalization is making the epidemic worse because of how it drives stigma, and discourages people at greatest risk from getting tested and those who test positive from accessing treatment.”
“These prosecutions typically have nothing to do with HIV transmission,” he added. “They are most often about whether or not the person with HIV can prove they disclosed prior to having sex. Whether a condom was used, or the person’s viral load was even detectable, doesn’t matter, nor does the science.”
Strub also noted that there are no laws punishing the transmission of more widespread sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
“More U.S. women died last year of cervical cancer from strains of HPV than died of AIDS from HIV,” he said. “But we’re not prosecuting people for failing to disclose they carry HPV.”
Strub believes laws against HIV transmission are designed to unfairly target gay men and other minority groups.
“Unlike HIV, [HPV] isn’t specifically associated with gay men, people of color and people who use drugs,” he explained. “HIV criminalization is about targeting specific groups of people, not about preventing disease.”
What do you think? Is it time we stopped criminalizing HIV? Sound off in the comments section below.
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Knowing transmission of an STI should be a prosecutable offence. Typhoid Mary was interred for her carrying a fatal illness. This is no different.
Should we criminalize knowingly transmitting HIV? YES
As in the above case the person LIED…however if they didn’t infect the partner…should be a lesser “crime”
Should we criminalize not disclosing HIV status? NO
“Prosecutors said the partner asked Hallam several times if he had the disease before engaging in sexual activity with him, and Hallam insisted he did not.”
Assuming this is the case (and not just a vengeful accusation, which is also possible) AND assuming the alleged perpetrator knew he was positive at the time the alleged transmission occurred, the “victim” still has mostly himself to blame for having unprotected sex.
Let’s say the person truthfully tells you he is negative. Since even a recent negative test does not mean the person is not infected, don’t go and have unprotected sex and then think you can complain if something happens.
Without knowing someone’s HIV (or more broadly, STI) status, there can be no informed consent.
I find the shifting of the burden over to the person who does not know or who is lied to as little more than an attempt to blame the victim.
But then, I knew too many people who died from being infected; so my reactions are based on experiencing HIV infections as life-ending events. Others may (and have) disagreed with me.
Only outdated in the sense it isn’t considered homicide. It shortens the life of the victim and should fall in that category.
Yes it is WRONG to lie about your HIV status…
However, what is the OBSESSION with gay men having unprotected sex with a virtual stranger….
I feel the need to repeat the previous comment about hpv killing women and there being no crime against that!
Having unprotected sex will put you at risk for std’s. Running to the cops and pressing charges on someone who you slept with that did not close their hiv status is the action of a coward. People should be responsible for the things that they do and stop using others as an excuse
Yes, if you knowingly expose someone to it then you should be prosecuted.
@demetreus: Don’t forget the fact that there is an HPV vaccine out to help prevent those cancers but the political right seems to thing that getting the vaccine will make a 12 year old a nymphomaniac.
Hepatitis kills more people than HIV. One of the most effective ads (ever) showed a guy with crusty lesions all over his face and mouth. Below it, the caption read, “If Hepatitis C was attacking your face instead of your liver, you’d do something about it.” From what I have seen, the treatments are long and not fun and the other forms of Hepatitis have no treatments. Lads…wear your raincoats. Even though HIV is now considered a manageable disease, you just don’t want to be a slave to hospitals, procedures, lumbar punctures, liver biopsies, pills that make you feel less than normal, higher potential for cancer and lymphoma, the onus of having to play catch up with your health, the conversations with future potential partners, and the constant reminder that your life is never the same….wear your raincoats!
@1EqualityUSA: here is the article and ad…
Keep the laws.
Once I was young and infatuated, and I got a surprise. I was also very careful, and I didn’t even know about these laws, so I didn’t feel the need for legal recourse.
I was hunted, and deceived. In later years, when the legal situation became clear to me, it did help me to achieve a more reasonable perspective, and put an end to toxic relationships.
Keep the laws.
Ugh … comparing HIV to HPV? That’s just apples and oranges. HPV isn’t guaranteed to develop into cervical cancer. HIV will lead to AIDS down the road, and HIV requires life-long, expensive therapies. The whole notion that HIV laws target gay men just continue the misconception that HIV is a gay disease.
Here’s how the laws should work:
1.) Aware you are HIV+, have unprotected sex without disclosing or lying about your status – Immediate jail time. You are a sick and horrible human being and you have just spread a life-long disease to another soul. You deserve to rot.
2.) Aware you are HIV+, have unprotected (consensual) sex after disclosing your status, partner contracts HIV – Get out of jail free card. Your partner made a bad life choice.
3.) Unaware you are HIV+, have unprotected sex and infect your partner – Community service spreading the importance of HIV awareness. Prohibited from participating in any state or federal prescription support services for no less than 1 year and no more than 5.
…. our community has NO excuse for participating in unprotected sex with people whose status we don’t know / can’t trust. I don’t care if you weren’t born during the era of ‘Gay Cancer’ – you’ve read the stories, you’ve seen The Normal Heart. We made AMAZING progress in reducing HIV infection rates within our community and now they are on the rise again. Why? Because people decided the feeling of being bare was more important than protecting yourself or your partner from HIV.
If you sleep with a random stranger you don’t care about your life? why should he care about your life if you don’t? The only people who need to be arrested are the rapist and committed partners who don’t disclose. Any and all people I meet I assume are positive.. Trust no one. Only you are responsible for your health, not some stranger you meet online or in a bar..
“Outdated?” Never in fashion!
It’s wrong to sleep with anyone and not them if you have any type of transmittal disease. And for diseases that can result in death, it should be against the law.
It’s not just one night stands that this happens it new romances that goes beyond the first date. Any STD should be told no matter how embarrassing.
I can’t believe there are still people who think the question “Are you negative” has any meaning. The person could have been infected last week or last month and not know it.
The problem with these laws are the possibility of abuse. Many of us have had vindictive or unstable exes, and it is easy for someone like that to make up an accusation like this. There is seldom any witness, so where is the principle of “beyond reasonable doubt” in this kind of discussion.
@Mack: if it’s going beyond a one night stand don’t you think you should get tested together over taking someone’s word. Why do we trust people we have only know for a month or two. Let’s take responsibility for our own actions. If someone has an STD, yes they should tell the truth but it’s your life, so you are responsible for find out the truth. Trust no one with my life..
Only if AIDS would have killed everyone in the 80’s, then we wouldn’t have this issue. Damn HIV meds. Is that what some of you think?
@money718: It sounds terrible, but I honestly do believe that there is a segment of gay men that do wish every guy with HIV had died in the 80s so there can be a return to the carefree days of bareback sex enjoyed in the 70s. I believe this because I have read about instances of honest HIV+ individuals getting nasty responses to their dating profiles by ignorant people that have chosen to blame others for having to take responsibility for their own health and safety when it comes to sex. The comments for articles like this one usually seem to lean that way too.
These laws actually work against efforts to get every gay man to get tested regularly. Some think that it’s better not to know their HIV status so that they can’t be accused of knowingly risking infecting someone.
Personally, I think it’s every man’s responsibility to protect himself rather than take someone’s word that he’s negative. If he agrees to unprotected sex, he shouldn’t blame anyone but himself.
Of course I can say that because it doesn’t affect me either way. My husband and I are negative and have been monogamous as a couple for 15 years.
Gaym50ish, I wonder if your husband knows that you are a pretty warped dude. No, you don’t have the right to knowingly infect someone -taking their health and possibly their life – just because they were “dumb enough” to have unprotected sex. You also aren’t allowed to poison people on the street just because they are dumb enough to accept food from a stranger. If you infect someone – even a dummy – that dummy can rightfully blame you. And he should be able to contact law enforcement to prosecute you.
In Canada, which is hardly a conservative bastion, they recently convicted an Ontario man who was contacting one gay person after another, gloating online about infecting them after they left his bedroom. He tried to infect at least 2 gay teenagers. Think about that. Think about what a gay teenager goes through, the isolation and the fear. And when he finally makes it to his “community” he finds a ruthless, homicidal predator out to wreck their health before they hit 20. Anyone who says that such a predator is blameless – i.e, you – is a sick twisted f*ck himself.
@Jacob23, first, Canada isn’t the liberal paradise you all seem to think. Canada still has a policy of seizing gay erotica at customs as “obscene,” for f*ck’s sake.
Then, the odd psychopath can likely be prosecuted on other bases and doesn’t justify gay criminalization statutes, which many gay rights organizations have spoken up against. Apart from discouraging testing, there are several other problems they cause. They have been used as a weapon by vindictive or unstable exes – haven’t we all have a run-in with that stalky ex? People have been prosecuted when they had had safe sex and no transmission occurred. And so on.
It takes a lunatic to have unprotected sex with someone and then run to the cops to have them arrested for exposure to hiv . I have friends who are hiv positive and the first step of living a healthy and happy life is acceptance and responsibility. Hiv doesn’t fall out of the sky live rain and snow. I am sorry but it’s the truth. It’s like this country is always trying to find ways to diminish the importance of gay people . Laws just keep coming, huh? Wow.
@demetreus: There is no guaranteed causation between HPV and the death of women. There is a higher risk of cervical cancer if you get HPV, but there is no guaranteed correlation.
With HIV, you are pretty much given a life sentence (of having to survive on a medical regiment which will eventually kill you in most cases).
This is a very grey area. On one hand, if you knowingly spread your HIV status to another person then you are kind of despicable… especially if you lie about it in order to do it. On the other hand, I can totally see where if you make such activity legal and base it off of rather you knowingly did it or not then the incentive is there for people to just not get tested at all so they never actually know their status.
@Harley: Just so you know, there are about 21 strains of HPV. The vaccine only protects against three of them. It is perfectly possible to get the vaccine and still get HPV.
@1EqualityUSA: Total misinformation. You should not believe everything as advertised. It is actually possible to cure HepC if the treatment works. It is also possible to pass HepC with no treatment. The two are not really comparable, and the believe that they are is misinformation…
Don’t worry. I was going to make a similar comment until I looked it up…
The majority of the deaths seem to be because people do not know that they have Hep-C, and therefore, they do not seek treatment.
@Kieru: I’m not sure if you are aware that to follow those would basically be giving a death sentence to anyone that cannot afford medical treatment to begin with (if you are unaware it is probably because you were unable to get yourself tested… not every town has a free clinic and not everyone can afford to get tested at a doctor). The best way to detect it is a blood test.
What if someone takes an oral test and that test is wrong?
If you are aware of this death sentence to the lower SES people with HIV that cannot afford medical care (to get tested or to get their meds) without government help and said what you said anyways…. you deserve jail time.
@JerseyMike: I fail to see the link between getting it on with a random stranger and not caring about your life. If that is the case, a lot of really decent people (including all realms of professionals) obviously must not care about their life.
Get off your high horse!
@tdx3fan: “With HIV, you are pretty much given a life sentence…”
The same is true for chronic Hep-B, which is also transmitted sexually, and yet as far as I know non-disclosure of Hep-B is not a crime.
And what about the flu? Tens of thousands of people die in the U.S. every year from the flu, so why don’t we criminalize people who still go to work and sneeze or cough on the subway?
tdx3fan, That was the point of the ad, to go get tested. The treatment for Hep C is miserable, long, arduous, with side effects and psychological implications to boot. No fun. HepB is such a hag. Wear your raincoats. Avoid the miseries.
Even if it is no longer criminal, it seems like the victim would have a decent civil lawsuit. Because of that person’s action they now have to spend thousands of dollars a year on medical care. Also their insurance company could sue the guy to pay them back for the money they spend on medication.
HIV has been around before most of us started having sex.. If you are having unprotected sex with someone who you have not been in a committed relationship for over a year or more, YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM!! Take responsibility for your actions. Why put your life in someone else’s hands. Unless you are a minor or have been raped, YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM!! You might be stupid but you are not a victim..
@vive: Blame the victim even though he was not the one who lied. That is fucked up.
@JerseyMike: If you are blatantly lied too you are a victim. Quit trying to put it all on the guy who wanted to have bareback sex. A desire to have natural sex should not mean it is his fault even though he was lied to.
@demetreus: It also takes a sick and twister person to lie to someone about whether they are HIV+ or not and then engage in bareback sex with the person they just misled knowing full well they are risking transmitting the virus to that person. Why couldn’t the guy just man up and answer correctly that he is poz?
@demetreus: So what do you call a liar? In your blame the victim attack you forgot to address that one.
@seaguy: your desire to have natural sex put you at risk of getting HIV.. You know that going into the situation.. If you getting it’s your fault.. YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM..
@tdx3fan: Not on a high horse baby.. On the ground with you and everyone else..
@seaguy, I am not excusing the poz guy’s behavior, but if you are going to have unprotected sex with someone who says he is negative then you are a fool. AS I mentioned before, he could have been infected last week and not seroconverted yet while being highly contagious.
If you want natural sex, protect yourself with PrEP. It’s what I do.
Most people already have HPV. I asked my doctor if I should get the vaccine. He said he’d be a waste of money, it’s really effective to give it to young teenagers now who haven’t been sexually active yet.
I see the merits of the anti-criminalize side. They make good points about the stigmatic effect these laws have. I definitely understand why we have these laws. I come from way after the epidemic, so playing safe has always been important. If someone knowingly tried to expose me to the virus, I would want him punished.
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