Cynthia Gordy at The Root on “the criminal prosecution of a virus“:
In Texas, a man is serving 35 years in prison for spitting at a police officer. In the state of Washington, a 19-year-old college student sits behind bars on first-degree assault charges for having unprotected sex with his girlfriend. A Georgia woman was sentenced to eight years in prison after consensual sex without a condom, while a Michigan man faced 10 years in prison on a felony charge for allegedly biting his neighbor during a scuffle. The penalties are steep because, according to the laws in these states, the defendants all brandished a deadly weapon: their HIV-positive status.
Such prosecutions are frequent. Thirty-four states have some type of HIV-criminalization law. Depending on the state, it may be illegal to expose someone else to HIV, transmit the virus or conceal your own HIV-positive status from potential sexual partners. This criminalization extends even to cases in which condoms were used or when the virus was not transmitted, as well as to acts, such as spitting or biting, that pose minuscule to no risk…
Ostensibly, one goal of HIV criminalization is to prevent new infections, but opponents say that they have the opposite effect. For starters, since criminal liability applies only to people who know their HIV status, it discourages people from getting tested.
For the record: Having sex with someone before disclosing one’s HIV status is a very, very bad thing. But giving ill-informed, anti-sexual authoritarians another excuse to enforce “Those People” laws against the obvious targets — insufficiently-white people, gay people, sex workers, anybody suspected of having a more adventurous sex life than those same authoritarians will admit to having — that’s not a win for the American “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” philosophy. Especially when the pro-criminalization advocates say stuff like this:
So far, efforts against HIV criminalization haven’t made a dent as new legislation is rolled out across the country. A pending proposal in Nebraska would make striking a police officer with any bodily fluid a misdemeanor. The act would be upgraded to a felony, with a penalty of up to five years in jail, if carried out by someone infected with HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B or C.
“If you know you’re HIV positive and you’re throwing your bodily fluids at someone, then you’re committing assault,” Jeff Franklin, the sheriff of Clay County, Neb., said to The Root. Franklin likens an HIV-positive person expelling bodily fluids to someone aggressively wielding a firearm. “This law specifically targets people who intend to intimidate or do harm, and makes sure that they are held responsible. I think there should be a criminal prosecution for that.”