Tuesday, May 7, 2013
by Sean Strub
Imagine meeting someone online, having a nice chat, and then deciding to hook up. You have HIV, but you’re adherent to your meds and have had an undetectable viral load for years. You and your sexual partner use a condom. Sometime later, the partner learns you have HIV and presses charges against you for failing to disclose your HIV status prior to sex.
Your life is suddenly turned upside down, with your name and picture splashed across the media. You are called an “AIDS Monster.” You and your family and friends feel humiliated and embarrassed. Your employment, housing, and relationships may be put in jeopardy and you need to find tens of thousands of dollars for legal fees for the impending prosecution.
If convicted, you face decades in prison, lifetime registration as a sex offender, and other restrictions; if acquitted, your life is still never the same, because you will always be known as the “AIDS Monster.”
Think about that for a moment: Consenting adults. No intent to harm. Undetectable viral load. A condom was used. No HIV transmission. Twenty-five years in prison. This isn’t hypothetical; it is exactly what happened in a recent case in Iowa. In fact, as of July 2009 Iowa had convicted nearly 1% of all Iowans with HIV under their HIV-specific criminal statute.
There have been hundreds of prosecutions for HIV crimes in the U.S., all over the country. As of today, 36 states and territories have HIV-specific statutes, but a targeted law isn’t required to prosecute an HIV crime. These prosecutions usually have little bearing on the actual level of risk of HIV transmission, ignoring factors like whether a condom was used or the viral load of the person with HIV. more below