Knowingly Infecting Others With HIV Is A Crime. How About Doing It Unknowingly?

John Conway Hart and his North Carolina lover barebacked for two months before said partner learned of Hart’s HIV status. Now Hart could now serve four months in jail and face medical quarantine if convicted of violating a state health code against knowingly infecting another person with HIV. This may be a bad thing.

While LGBT blogger Rod McCullom points out that blacks and gays of color get prosecuted the most for such HIV laws, we wonder if such laws inadvertently discourage people from knowing their status—after all, Hart might not have been arrested if he unknowingly infected his sex partner. Another reason to repeal HIV criminalization laws?

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  • Riker

    Ummmm no. It is, and SHOULD be, a crime to knowingly infect someone with a terminal illness. We’re not talking about the common cold here. HIV destroys peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Intentionally infecting someone with Smallpox, for example, or Ebola would be classified as attempted murder.

  • Politically Incorrect Thug

    Case in point: Conrad Murray didn’t intentionally inject Michael Jackson with an overdose of Propofol, but he still killed him. Even though the BF consented to unsafe sex, Hart is a selfish swine for subjecting someone else to his disease for the simple purpose of physical pleasure. Let’s hope he fries. Fries, I say!

  • Mike in Asheville

    While certainly itrarelated, there are 3 major issues here: 1) knowingly engaging in unsafe sex while HIV+; 2) unknowlingly; 3) allowing yourself to engage in unsafe sex irrespective of knowing HIV status.

    To lie about one’s status in an effort to enjoy bare sex is repulsively anti-social. It is and should be a crime.

    Avoiding the knowledge so to continue engaging in unsafe sex is insipid. HIV/AIDS is a horrid disease that is not simply controlled with a few medications. It is a virus intent on taking over your body’s life for itself. The medicines are toxic to all other parts of the body, diminishing everything in their path, including a healthy sex life.

    It takes two to tango: each MUST be responsible for themself. Mr. Lied-To, no excuse for you not insisting on safe-sex: you KNOW you too have told lies in order to gain sex; you KNOW it only takes one unsafe event to become infected; you KNOW that “bare might feel better” BUT “safe feels pretty fucking good too!”. And you KNOW if a guy refuses safe-sex, it is not worth the risk.


    I am okay with two HIV+ guys deciding for themselves whether to engage in safe and bare sex; they are making an informed decision.

    WARNING TO THOSE WHO THINK UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOADS MEANS SAFE: The viral load test allows up to 50 copies of the virus per cubic centimeter of blood. There are 1000 CCs per liter and an average 5 liters of blood in the human male body. That means one can have an undetectable viral load while carrying 250,000 copies of the virus. Each drop of blood will have one+ copies of the virus. It only takes one copy to infect.

  • Fitz

    The whole “Plausible deniablity” thing gets pretty weak to me because it’s
    a rational assumption that you are at risk if you BB.
    In other words, assume that you are (+) until you hear otherwise. And certainly assume that the guy knocking at your back door is. I’m all for sex, and frankly I am all for BB sex… but only when of the same HIV status.

    And on a similar note… it’s totally rational to require MDs and clinics to
    do a rapid test at each point of service. Enter a rehab? get a test. See your dentist? get a test. Go to the ER? Get a test. It’s easy, fast and pretty cheap. This is
    how we almost eradicated syphilis.

  • Jewed Law

    @Fitz: Great ideas, but the question remains, How many people who test positive will act on it, and how many will continue to spread it around regardless of their status? Since that’s an indeterminate number, you’re right when you say we all have to assume that everyone else is a carrier until they prove otherwise.

  • Greg

    He wasn’t raped for two months. Why does anyone ever agree to being the bottom in barebacking? What’s the thrill of barebacking if you’re on the bottom? How can you even tell the difference from the guy having a condom? Are you just being ‘polite’ to a top who says he’s negative? If you’re that dumb, are the courts really going to help you much? I don’t get it.

  • Fitz

    Greg– those are great questions. The difference with BB is both psychological and physical. Psychologically, for some, it feels more intimate. Physically (which is much more an issue for me personally), latex rubbing against skin hurts more. Even with the very best lube on the planet.

    Jewed: I agree— but it starts to chip away at the wall of denial. That’s why I advocate the testing so much. Normalize it.

  • Jewed Law

    @Fitz: Well put. Let’s make testing as normal as getting a flu shot, and take the stigma out of it. It’s no longer a death sentence. Wouldn’t anyone want to know they were sick in order to address it?

  • WillBFair

    I think getting tested, and making a regular partner test, and still always using condoms is the way to go. We want to be as careful as possible in order to stop hiv in this community.

  • Little Kiwi

    it’s 2011 – why are there people our their who don’t know their status? get TESTED. regularly. use condoms. every time.

    i get tested every three months. i never, ever, EVER, have sex without a condom. come on boys, there are no excuses.

  • Tyler

    @Little Kiwi: Are we talking about reasons or excuses? With increasing stigma against poz guys and a culture that makes them shoulder the burden of protection, there are plenty of reasons to not know your status these days.

  • Little Kiwi

    Tyler, I have yet to ever hear one intelligent “reason” for a person to “not know their status”

    Oh, sure. i’ve heard excuses, but excuses are bullshit. it’s not only your own health it’s the health of others.

    so, enlighten me – what legitimate intelligent “reasons” exist for people not knowing their status? what reasons are stopping people from getting themselves tested, regularly?

    use condoms, every time, regardless of one’s HIV status. just use condoms. every time. and get tested. regularly.

  • Josh

    @Tyler: I don’t think the stigma for (+) men is increasing at all. If you look at the stigma from the 80s and 90s and compare it today I think you will find that in-fact it is significantly less than it used to be.

    Personally, I think that there is no excuse for not knowing your status and that even unknowingly infecting someone should also be a crime.

    We have such easy access to free testing that I do not understand why you would not get it done. On that note, I feel that unless the (-) partner was tricked (i.e. the condom was taken off without their knowledge) they too should bear some brunt of the responsibility.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: One good reason not to get tested regularly: no sex. (I’m sure you or someone will say that’s no excuse either, but good luck making a case for it.)

    @Mike in Asheville: “…you KNOW you too have told lies in order to gain sex…”

    Interesting assumption you make there. How do you know that he has told lies to get sex? It’s too common, but not universal.

  • Little Kiwi

    Hyhybt – when i became sexually active, i made it a point to get tested. every three months. every year. without fail. more matter how little i thought i was getting at times. you just make it a routine. doesn’t matter if you get any or not. you go to get tested, because you have a routine. it’s just what responsible adults do.

    but still, how is no sex a “reason” for not knowing your status? I have yet to hear anyone give an intelligent “reason” for not knowing their HIV status.

    people who find getting tested nerve-wracking can simply do what i do: MAKE IT A ROUTINE. it takes the fear away.

  • Little Kiwi

    here’s what i find so ridiculous – guys who won’t use condoms with a guy who is openly poz but will bareback with a guy who claims to be DDF.

    LEARN SOMETHING, boys. Almost all sex-based transmission are from having unprotected sex with a guy who claims to be “neg”, not from a guy who is openly poz whom you use condoms with. learn the stats, there’s no excuse to not know shit. if you’re sexually active be aware and responsible about it.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: I’m not sure whether you understand or not… by “no sex” I mean exactly what I say. Why would you claim someone doesn’t know their status if they’ve never done anything that could have exposed them to the virus?

  • Little Kiwi

    Hyhybt, that’s still not a reason. Why would a person “not know” their status? There’s no reason to not know – go find out – get yourself tested. I am saying that there are no reasons to not know your HIV status – only excuses. You seem to be saying “what if you dont’ have sex?” – that’s not a valid reason. KNOW your status. Go to a doctor or a free clinic. get tested. There are other ways to contract the virus besides intercourse. Know your status. Get tested. Whether you’ve had sex or not – GET TESTED.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: Let’s see… stuck with an unclean needle? No… Long ago blood transfusion? No… Tattoos? No… any others you care to list?

    I’m certain enough to be safe donating blood, and they claim they test all donations and will call if anything turns up. That’s more than good enough as a second line to no exposure in the first place.

  • Little Kiwi

    so your “reason” for not knowing your status is that you’ve never felt like you had a reason to get tested?

    that’s an excuse and a stupid one. why not just go get tested? it now seems to be because you simply dont’ want to. ok. fine. but that’s still an excuse, not a reason.

  • Little Kiwi

    until you know for sure what your status then you’re in a grey-zone of ignorance. know your status. get tested. stop making excuses for not getting tested and just do it. KNOW. YOUR. STATUS.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: Notice that you haven’t bothered giving a reason. Because there’s not one, other than sheer paranoia on the level of those afraid of mosquitos and toilet seats.

  • Little Kiwi

    So you don’t know for sure if you have HIV or not, correct? Since you’ve never been tested. You don’t actually know. And you’re defending not knowing. This is very odd.

    Why not just get tested so you can know for sure?

  • Mike in Asheville


    You missed the “you” I was referring to: it was not the one claiming to be negative, its the “you” who is listening to that claim. My point is that each of us (okay, maybe 1 in 10 million as an exception) has told a lie in order to gain sex; we know we should not believe what another man may say, because we all tell lies for sex.

    In this particular case, nowhere in the story nor news report does the “victim” claim he was told by the suspect that the suspect was negative. Until more of the story is told, who knows what really happened. But there are plenty of times where neither party talk about it, engage in unprotected sex, and then act shocked to discover anti-viral meds OR there is a nasty break-up during which one rummages the other’s apartment looking for damning info.


  • Tired

    I’m a little tired of the apologists. Sure, the bottom who fucks without a condom is an idiot, but we’re talking about sociopathic behavior here. Would we be making excuses if the guy was arrested for selling meth he knew was laced with cyanide? Sure, we all know the dangers of meth use, but that doesn’t excuse the seller’s behavior. It’s simply criminal. We need to take a step back and realize that these prosecutions are not intended to hinder gay sex. They’re intended to protect those of us out there who would like to remain negative.

    Now the real reason to get tested is that you can prolong your life AND decrease your rate of transmission while barebacking if you’re taking ARV’s. Contrary to the one copy of the virus theory described above, studies have shown that use of ARV’s can reduce transmission rates by up to 90%. Is it fool proof? No. Is it better from both partners? Yes.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: Yet you STILL refuse to provide even a possible means of transmission.

  • matt

    “They’re intended to protect those of us out there who would like to remain negative.”

    How exactly does this law do ANYTHING to bring about that end? If you have unprotected sex with someone and you don’t have a knowledge of their sexual/testing history you are obviously not putting in an effort to remain negative. This law does absolutely nothing to keep anyone safe, in fact it makes things worse. Laws like these discourage people from getting tested and those untested poz guys are the biggest spreaders of the virus. A 2008 CDC study reported that 20% of their sample (gay men in urban areas) had HIV and 44% of them were unaware. As you said before that 44% isn’t on ARVs which makes them more dangerous and on top of that they don’t know their own status, many of them probably go around telling people that they’re negative. If you want people to remain negative how about trying to pass laws that encourage testing rather than discourage it?

  • Little Kiwi


    You’re saying “I don’t need to get tested because I’ve not done anything to get HIV”

    that’s not a reason, it’s an excuse. why not just get tested so you can be a responsible adult who actually knows, for a fact, what his status is?

  • Brandt

    @Little Kiwi:

    Well, if someone is a virgin, then getting tested makes little sense. :-)

  • Little Kiwi

    I guess if someone is not only a virgin, but also one of Society’s Undesirables who will never, at any moment, engage in sexual activity then there’s no need.

    I still think it sounds like sheer laziness. Why not get tested? Why not join the world of responsible adults who can factually look at the results and know, with certainty, their status?

  • MKe

    What this guy did was very wrong it should be highly illegal.

  • Fitz

    Look– it’s your ass, and your serostatus. No law imaginable can protect you better than you. I do think everyone should get tested, and (like I said earlier), it should just become routine. Even your grandma should get one.

    This is 2011, not 1983. We know how to not get HIV. So the fact we still get it means that the issue is more complicated than a condom.

    BTW: most of the gay men reading this will NOT die of HIV. They will die of 100% preventable cancers, heart disease, auto accidents, and ODs. So, HIV is tremendously important, but not our only important health issue.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: And STILL not even an attempt at a reason; just a baseless accusation of laziness and irresponsibility, with the slur of never having a chance of sex in the future thrown in for bad measure.

  • B

    No. 31 · Little Kiwi wrote, “I guess if someone is not only a virgin, but also one of Society’s Undesirables who will never, at any moment, engage in sexual activity then there’s no need.”

    If sex is your only risk factor (there are others, but let’s leave those out to keep it simple), then you don’t have to get tested before your first sexual experience.

    Similarly, if you were sexual active in the early 1970s and ended up stranded, and alone, on a tropical island for 40 years, then you probably don’t need to be tested before having sex again either – if you somehow did manage to get infected at such an early date, you should have died of it before being rescued – those 40 years without any symptoms is in itself a kind of a test.

  • Little Kiwi

    Hyhybt, I’m not sure what you expect from me. You’re an adult, apparently, and insisting that you have no reason to get yourself tested for HIV. From those statements I sincerely hope you continue to remain a virgin. You believe you do not have HIV, yet you have never been specifically tested. Adults who are responsible make sure that they know the specifics of their health status. Should you ever choose to become sexually active, I truly hope you have the integrity to have an HIV test beforehand. Just so you know, with certainty, what your status is.

  • Little Kiwi

    amazing that in 2011 we still have people giving excuses for not only not getting tested, but not specifically knowing, with certainty, their statuses.

    know your status. if you don’t know it you’re just one more person who “thinks” they’re negative. they’re the ones who end up spreading disease.

  • Hyhybt

    @Little Kiwi: I’m curious how you could *possibly* claim not to know what I’m asking. To be perfectly and redundantly clear: I’m asking for a mechanism by which I can possibly have become infected.

    And also, since you seem to have missed it: my blood *has* been tested. Repeatedly, because I donate a couple times a year and they test everything that comes in, and they call if anything turns up. I just haven’t had a test done just for the purpose of testing, because I have never been in any situation where I would have been exposed.

  • Little Kiwi

    So do you know your status? I’ve been talking about knowing status. I have said, repeatedly, there are no reasons to not know your status, only excuses.

  • B

    No. 36 · Little Kiwi wrote, “Should you ever choose to become sexually active, I truly hope you have the integrity to have an HIV test beforehand. Just so you know, with certainty, what your status is.”

    Hey, if the only needles that ever went into him were at a doctor’s office and came directly out of a sterile package, and his only prior sexual activity revolved around the use of his hand with no one else involved (except perhaps watching via a web cam), then he can reasonably wait until after his first sexual experience with another person.

    When he said, “no risk”, I presume he really meant “no risk”, as in “no contact”.
    What he’s describing is a very unusual situation.

  • calebmcp

    When I was a young boy of 16, I dated an older guy in his 20s. It was a summer fling, and me being the stupid teenager I was as the time, let him bareback me. We broke up, didn’t talk for years. Flash forward…. Im 19, at the club, when my friend points someone out, and tells me that person has HIV. My ex turns around. At first I didn’t believe it, but after hearing the testimonials of several other people, and the indirect admission on dating sites, I was shocked. Did I ask point blank if he was HIV-? I honestly don’t remember. He had HIV for years, years before even meeting me. How can someone not tell the person that they are dating something so dangerous. Especially when its someone so young. Every time I see him out now I have to fight the urge to attack him for putting me at constant risk, and he still has the audacity to be friendly and try and touch me.

  • Jeff

    Calebmcp-Did that guy give you HIV? Why were you barebacking? Being a teenager is not an excuse for making the choice to have bareback sex.

    This is an excellent example of why you should have safer sex and use condoms with every partner even a partner or boyfriend, and you should assume that they are HIV+ or have an STD even if you ask them if they’re HIV- or if they say they’re HIV neg.

  • Phil

    @41 what were you doing getting involved with some sleazy chickenhawk who gets involved with teenagers who are not even legal adults?

  • Riker

    @Jeff: It isn’t always a conscious decision. Firstly, teenagers are stupid, and do stupid things. Second, some parts of the world have inadequate (abstinence-only and heterosexual-only) sex education programs. Third, after a few glasses of wine and maybe a nice long sensual massage, our minds go hazy and we don’t always make good choices.

  • B

    Re No. 42 · Jeff “Calebmcp-Did that guy give you HIV? Why were you barebacking? Being a teenager is not an excuse for making the choice to have bareback sex.”

    Being a teenager who did not get any sex education about it with fundamentalist parents he couldn’t talk to would sound like a pretty good excuse to me – a reason to blame the adults, not the kid. You don’t know Calebmcp’s situation. Maybe he should have known, but just maybe nobody gave him the education he needed.

    Regarding No 41, the real question should be the reverse – there’s a reason we hold the adults responsible, not teens below the age of consent.

    One thing working in Calebmcp’s favor is that, if his now-ex-boyfriend had been positive for years and was careful about his medication, his viral load could have been undetectable. A very low viral load apparently reduces the chances of infecting someone. The catch – not taking the drugs on schedule or a virus mutation could cause the viral load to shoot up between tests, so this reduced risk is not dependable (but conceivably that could have saved Calebmcp – hopefully he was lucky in that regard).

  • Kurt

    Give us a break B, even kids in elementary school know all about condoms and how to have safer sex, and how you get infected with HIV even if they are in an abstinence based sex educational program.

    Just because someone is HIV+ and on meds and even has an undetectable viral load that still doesn’t mean that it’s OK to bareback or that you won’t infect someone with HIV, get reinfected, or get infected with other strains of HIV.

  • Riker

    @Kurt: In the more liberal areas of the country, like the northeast and California, you are correct. However, what about the young gay boy in rural Kansas, where the Health teacher is a Christian Fundamentalist? What about kids in Catholic school, who are shown by several studies to be less knowledgable about sex than their public school peers? What about children homeschooled by Born-Again parents, who put restructions on use of the family computer and television, and control what books can be read in the house?

  • Bill

    I’m gay, grew up in rural areas, and came of age when HIV/AIDS and other STDs were very well known about even if it was the early and mid 90s.

    I still learned about condoms and how people get infected with HIV and other STDs in sex education at my schools even in elementary school.

    I agree with Kurt, it’s 2011 everyone in the United States knows about HIV and how not to get it, and even if they are born again, Christian, or have strict parents they can talk to people about HIV, how to have safer sex, and the idea that someone who is intentionally not having safer sex or barebacking out of naivety or ignorance that “I can bareback and HIV won’t happen to me my partner is clean!” or the excuse of “I’m not a bisexual or gay man and the woman I’m with does not IV drugs and is on birth control!” is doing this all by their own choice.

  • Hyhybt

    Reading the directions can be a confusing thing too: don’t condoms still come with instructions *not* to use them for anal sex?

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Hyhybt: If you are having “no sex”, why are you reading instructions on condom wrappers?

  • Greg

    @Hyhybt: Everyone here has been pretty patient with you (more so than I expected!) but I’m really mystified why you are posting on this topic at all.

    Okay, we get it – you’re celibate. (Leaving virginity aside.)

    Are you bragging about it? I don’t get why you’re posting here.

  • Greg

    @Hyhybt: Since you seem not to considered this as an option, how about mutual masturbation? That would carry zero risk of HIV transmission.

    Most of us would consider it to be fucking boring (pun intended) but hey, it’s an option.

  • Hyhybt

    @Greg: No, I’m not bragging about anything whatsoever. Nor have I said anything that should give that impression. But what is, is, and I found the insistence that *being tested* is the only possible way anyone could ever know their status worth challenging, especially since no counterargument was presented other than the sheer insistence itself.

    Is there some reason, then, that I *shouldn’t* post in this topic?

    @Mike in Asheville: That I’ve never had occasion to use one doesn’t mean I’ve never seen them. The ones I’ve seen had not only instructions not to use them for anything other than vaginal sex, but corresponding illustrations as well.

  • Fitz

    Frankly, I don’t think that the opinion of people who don’t have sex is relevant on the issues of testing frequency nor BB Vs. condom sex. You don’t have a dog in this fight.

  • Greg

    @Hyhybt: There’s plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t monopolize the thread.

  • Hyhybt

    @Fitz: Just as well, then, that I haven’t offered opinions on those.

    @Greg: I’m not “monopolizing” the thread. Unless you choose to blame me for the choices others make as to whether to post or not.

  • Little Kiwi

    it’s ok, Hyhybt. You’re a virgin and always will be. Rock on!

  • calebmcp

    @Jeff: He didn’t give me HIV, Im still clean as a whistle (thank god). But as to why I was barebacking? I was a foolish kid. I couldn’t talk to my dad about my sex life, he didn’t know I was gay back then. Yes I should have been smarter, but I wasn’t, and I dodged a bullet. But my heart goes out to those that haven’t been so lucky.

  • B

    No. 46 · Kurt wrote, “Give us a break B, even kids in elementary school know all about condoms and how to have safer sex, and how you get infected with HIV even if they are in an abstinence based sex educational program.”

    I wouldn’t count on that all across the U.S. Some areas are still pretty backwards. Also, the guy I replied to did not give his age, and in the past, sex education was nonexistent in many areas, and our recent record is still pretty shabby.

    Before saying “Give us a break,” you might want to read http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Teen-Sex-Ed.html :

    •In 2006–2008, most teens aged 15–19 had received formal instruction about STIs (93%), HIV (89%) or abstinence (84%). However, about one-third of teens had not received any formal instruction about contraception; males were even less likely to receive this instruction than females (62% vs. 70%).[10]

    • Many sexually experienced teens (46% of males and 33% of females) did not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex.[11]

    • About one in four adolescents (23% of females and 28% of males) received abstinence education without receiving any instruction about birth control in 2006–2008 [11], compared with 8–9% in 1995.[12]

    • Among teens aged 18–19, 41% report that they know little or nothing about condoms and 75% say they know little or nothing about the contraceptive pill.[13]”

    Look at the data – over 10% of U.S. teenagers received no sex education about HIV. And the data is pretty current (as late as 2008).

  • Mitch

    @Mike in Asheville: Mike, some of the things you write are so off the mark in regards to the effect they have on their readers that I find you to be an agent of stigma as often as a “sage survivor”. Obviously, it could only take “just one” copy of the virus to infect. There are a lot of theoretical routes to infection though, with virutally no behavior being risk free. A growing body of evidence, logic and numerous anecdotes indicate that exposure from an effectively treated pozzie is less likely to result in infection than just about any other possible risk, including oral sex or presumed “monogamy”. Pedantic details like this justify discriminatory sexual practices amongst seronegative gay men, without actually making them any safer. Its not like there’s some huge surge in infections being driven by serodiscordant undetectable barebackers. The OVERWHELMING majority of new infections come from guys who mistakenly believe they’re negative, don’t care about their status or just lie. Belaboring the theoretical risk presented by those of us with undetectable viral loads only sends us to the back of the bus in favor of far riskier partners.

    Should guys who know they’re poz bareback with negative partners? Obviously not, but what you’re doing is a tantamount to reminding people that flying isn’t completey safe, leaving them to think they should hitch hike.

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