health law

Should Malawi Make it a Crime to Knowingly Spread HIV?

Malawi already has some terrible legal issues. But is making the knowing transmission of HIV a crime such a terrible idea?

Already, a number of American states treat purposeful HIV transmission — or just being HIV-positive and having unprotected sex without informing your partner — a criminal act. A proposed law in Malawi, where an estimated 12 percent of the population is HIV-positive, would do the same, making it a punishable offense to knowingly spread HIV to someone else.

And the ones offering the loudest criticism of the bill? Sex workers. This is the reasoning:

Under the new legislation, sex workers would be liable to prosecution should they fail to disclose their HIV-positive status to their partner or a client and then go on to infect them with the disease. They argue that by being forced to disclose their status, they risk losing their partners and clients.

“The social circumstances and the law combine to place [a sex worker] in a cruel dilemma,” a protester at a recent demonstration against the bill told Malawi’s Nyasa Times newspaper. “If she discloses to her partner that she is HIV positive, she risks losing everything. If she does not disclose, she risks prosecution on criminal charges.”

Not to put a damper on prostitution — which we readily acknowledge is, sadly, often the only way some impoverished folks can earn cash to support a family — but ya know what? If you know you’re HIV positive, meet a a john, and don’t tell him you’re carrying the virus before you have sex? Then you’re a fucking asshole. The risk of losing clients simply does not trump someone else’s physical health, or the physical health of anyone else that person has sex with.

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