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HIV Criminalization

Hi Folks! Mark your calendars, I'm about to say something nice about a Republican. These days, this happens less frequently than a planetary alignment. This shoutout goes to Miami's own Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her work with California Democrat Barbara Lee to modernize our countries HIV disclosure laws.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee ( D-Calif.) was joined by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) to introduce H.R. 1843, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act. The REPEAL Act expresses the sense of Congress that federal and state laws, policies, and regulations should not place a unique or additional burden on individuals solely as a result of their HIV status. 
“These laws are based on bias, not science. We need to make sure that our federal and state laws don’t discriminate against people who are living with HIV. These laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred, and we’ve got to modernize them. That’s exactly what this legislation would do,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
We all know the tragic tail of Kimberly Bergalis, who meet a horrifying end at the hands of her psychopath dentist who intentionally infected her and five other patients with HIV, the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The majority of the laws surrounding our nation's policies on HIV transmission and disclosure were born out of the fear and hysteria surrounding incidents like this.

Hysteria is never a good state for making informed decisions.  What we need now is informed discussion and common sense reform. Consider this.
On October 2, 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a decision in Rhoades v. Iowa, a case involving Nick Rhoades, a gay man living with HIV who was charged with criminal transmission of HIV based on his HIV status, and evidence of consensual sex that posed little or no risk of transmission to his partner. On his trial lawyers' advice, Mr. Rhoades pled guilty. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. The court subsequently reconsidered this sentence, suspended his prison term, and placed Mr. Rhoades on supervised probation for 5 years.
The crux of the issue here is that there are a lot of things that count as "sex" that have virtually no chance of transmitting HIV. This issue is further complicated by a new understanding of how HIV treatment affects HIV transmission. An HIV positive person on effective treatment has an extremely reduced chance of spreading that infection to others. When that is combined with generally accepted safe sex practices there is virtually no chance of transmission, no harm, and thus no crime.

That said, intimacy should be based upon trust and whether you have HIV, herpes, hepatitis, or anything else that can be transmitted to a sexual partner the right thing to do is inform them. There is a place for criminal penalties for those who engage in reckless disregard for the safety of their partners and those who maliciously and intentionally spread the virus. But those cases are few and far between.

I was in my teens when the AIDS epidemic took hold. Before my current monogamy, I spent decades as an extremely sexually active gay man and I avoided the virus with a simple philosophy. I presumed that every partner that I had was potentially infected and took appropriate precautions. That self-responsibility provided a level of safety no law or after the fact criminal penalty could ever match.


  1. If somebody knows they have HIV and they don't tell the other person, have sex with them and then infect the victim, the HIV positive perpetrator should be punished criminally.

    The fact that this would disproportionately effect gay (because of anal sex and the associated higher risk of transmission) people makes no difference.

  2. @10:38

    I agree. But if you read what I wrote and followed the links you'll see that the issue is not so black and white.

    What I have issue with is criminal prosecutions when no transmission has taken place and could not have taken place.

    You can have anal sex all day with a condom and not get infected. I speak from experience.

  3. Unless the condom breaks - you go to put your thing in somebody, knowing you have HIV, with or without a condom, that is a crime. The person that is at risk of infection has the right to determine whether there is or is not a risk - depriving them of that choice is a crime.

  4. Again, I agree.

    It does't seem like you read what I wrote.

  5. This is s a complicated issue with many nuances.

    Take this case for example.

    This pastor is facing charges for soliciting prostitution. But he's also facing additional charges because of his HIV positive status. The sex acts he was proposing (receptive oral sex) had absolutely no chance of transmitting HIV, yet that fact - that no harm could come offers him no protection under current law.

    Also, laws written with extreme penalties were done so during a time when HIV was a death sentence. Thankfully those days are over and HIV infection is more akin to a long-term manageable condition like diabetes. Bad, yes. But certainly not as bad.

    That's why we need reform.

  6. Sex is dirty and dangerous.

  7. @11:55

    Which is why I abstain from it at least 3 or 4 hours a day.

  8. Spenser, For Hire.





    SFL, I think you'd better explain the significance of this to your readers. The Senate Dems just followed through with their threat to employ the nuclear option and by a vote of 52-48 it passed.

    The -hit has just hit the proverbial fan. The D.C. Court of Appeal will now get their three new judges and several other federal courts around the country will finally be getting their open slots filled.

    But there will come a time when the shoe is on the other foot. Look out below.

    Cap Out .....

  10. SFL is busy doing "lawyer stuff" but you can see my response presently.


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