God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

18.09.2009 Criminal HIV?

“Nick Rhoades, an Iowa man sentenced May 8 to 25 years in prison for failing to disclose his HIV status to a male sexual partner, had his sentence reduced to five years of probation without jail time in a September 11 reconsideration hearing, The Iowa Independent reports.”

It is indeed an interesting question on whether disclosure of a HIV status can or should always be judged by legal means. In the existing climate of stigmatization and discrimination it is very unlikely that all people infected will be willing or able to disclose before being sexually active with somebody else. Punishment for non-disclosure, often even if no infection took place is growing in the legal systems of nations and I tend to disagree.
I would argue that the onus lies on both parties to protect and if I want to engage in sexual activities where the exchange of body fluids is likely, I have to treat every unknown and maybe even every known person as if he/she is carrier of the virus.  It always takes two to dance one says – and this applies also to such cases like the one above.
I personally don’t think that the tool of the criminal code is a very good tool to prevent infections; I think it will rather make it more unlikely that people get tested because at least they could argue then, that they did not know at all.
I see with concern that more and more also African countries develop laws in that regard, even punishing people when they did not know of their infection and no infection took place.
Extra criminal laws in this regard puts people living with the virus very quick into the criminal corner – that is not what we need to stop the stigma and in doing so,  creating an environment where we are really able to stop the spread of the virus.

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