Guest Blogger

HIV disclosure laws fail

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 15, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: condom use, condoms, history of HIV, HIV criminalization, HIV prevention, HIV stigmatization, HIV transmission, HIV/AIDS, Michigan, prisons, safe sex, sex, stigma, transmission

Editors' note: Todd Heywood is a freelance journalist from Michigan.

heywood.JPGOver the last week or so, there has been an overwhelming amount of discussion about HIV disclosure laws and the criminalization of HIV-positive statuses in the United States. The discussions came about in part because of a story in Q-Notes of North Carolina about a D.J. in local club who had plead guilty to exposing partners to HIV. It was a misdemeanor crime in North Carolina.

In a less public story, an HIV positive man here in Michigan has been charged with violating our HIV disclosure law, a felony, and exposing two women to HIV.

But to a lesser extent, this discussion has been boiling under the surface of HIV prevention and activist activities for some time. Reading the responses around the North Carolina case both on Bilerico and on several listserves I am a member of was, quite frankly disgusting.

The following comment from Wolfgang E.B. here on Bilerico adequately shows the amount of fear mongering and outright stigma associated with HIV non-disclosure:

I agree with you, Lucrece. Knowingly spreading a deadly contagion is, at best, negligent homicide; at worst, first degree murder. I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who is HIV positive, no matter how they got it, but it comes with a responsibility to protect the safety of others.

I do hope this law applies to *all* serious communicable diseases though, not just HIV. I've never heard anything but AIDS mentioned when it's brought up.

I am HIV-positive. I was infected in March of 2007 by a partner who was infected but afraid to disclose because he had been rejected by friends and family when he was diagnosed. We practiced safer sex, however, I was infected anyway.

Now, under Michigan law, I could charge this person with a felony, sending him to prison for up to four years and thus exposing him exceptionally high rates of Hepatitis B and C (links to PDF) as well as HIV, or I could take a compassionate perspective and understand the social and political realities this partner was suffering under.

What he did was negligent, there is no question about it. However, did it rise to the level of criminal activity? Hardly.

And that is the exact issue with HIV disclosure laws and their failure in America. It is time to address the real issues of HIV infection, exposure, and non-disclosure.

(To be clear, do not construe this post to be an advocating for not disclosing HIV status to partners. I am not a fool enough to believe that we live in a perfect world where HIV-positive persons are afforded respect and dignity and that in some cases disclosure could seriously put persons with HIV at risk for violence, discrimination, and more.)

The History of HIV Disclosure Criminal Laws

Criminalization of HIV transmission was mandated in 1990 with the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act. In the Act, states were required to certify that they had laws to criminalize the transmission of HIV. All states had reached that necessary certification by 2000, and thus the rider was not reauthorized. However, the law has left a hodge-podge of legal liabilities which vary from state to state and in some instances from action to action. In other words, an action in Michigan may be a felony, but in another state, like California, it might not even be criminal.

In Michigan, the law is particularly appalling, in that it demands disclosure of HIV-positive status prior to any "penetration...however slight." The law follows:

333.5210 Sexual penetration as felony; definition.

Sec. 5210.

(1) A person who knows that he or she has or has been diagnosed as having acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome related complex, or who knows that he or she is HIV infected, and who engages in sexual penetration with another person without having first informed the other person that he or she has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome related complex or is HIV infected, is guilty of a felony.

(2) As used in this section, "sexual penetration" means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person's body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person's body, but emission of semen is not required.

Evidently in Michigan, if you and I decide to have sex using toys, and I don't disclose I'm HIV-positive, I have committed a felony. To be fair, this law was written in 1987, at the height of the HIV pandemic's most brutal assault on humans in the U.S. and because of the lackluster behavior of Ronald Reagan's Health and Human Services Department, the U.S. did not know as much about HIV and its transmission as we do now. But why has this law not been amended to reflect a more current understanding of the biology and epidemiology of the virus?

And what makes matters worse in Michigan is that the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the law is constitutional in People v. Jensen:

Considering the ease of transmitting AIDS and HIV through sexual penetration [*464] and the absence of any "cure," the state's interest in protecting the public health, safety, and general welfare of its citizenry becomes extremely significant. Although the statute may significantly infringe on defendant's individual interests in remaining silent, the state's interest to compel her to disclose her HIV status before engaging in sexual penetration is undeniably overwhelming.

Interestingly, Hepatitis C, which has a .6% prevalence in Michigan residents, and is just as dangerous, if not more so, an infection as HIV -- is not subject to disclosure by HCV-positive persons before sexual activity. Shouldn't that state also hold HCV to a similar criminal level, under "the state's overriding, legitimate and compelling interest in preserving the life of its citizens," as the Court ruled in Jensen?

Laws are Counter to HIV Prevention Messages

The fact of the matter is that most of these laws (23 states have some form of criminal law on the issue of HIV transmission. The laws are explicit in mentioning HIV), do not mention prevention efforts in sexual contact. In fact, only three of the 23 state laws mention condoms, and only two of these imply some form of protection involved. Most of the laws make no determination of harm mitigation taken by the HIV-positive person, and present HIV disclosure as paramount, over other actions.

But the reality is far more complicated. First of all, thinking back on our toys and sex question, there is not a single case of toys transmitting the virus. Yet this completely safe activity is a criminal act in Michigan if the HIV-positive person does not first disclose his or her status. But let's look a little more closely at risk probabilities based on behavior.

To address this issue, I am going to quote extensively from from The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Summer 2004, "Toward Rational Criminal HIV Exposure Laws" by Carol L. Galletly, and Steven D. Pinkerton.

Unprotected anal intercourse is the riskiest sexual activity. The probability of HIV being transmitted from an HIV-infected man to his uninfected partner through a single act of unprotected anal intercourse is approximately 1 in 50 if the infected man is the insertive partner and 1 in 2000 if he is the receptive partner. The risks associated with unprotected vaginal intercourse are relatively small as well: approximately 1 in 1000 for male-to-female transmission and 1 in 2000 for female-to-male transmission. Less is known about the probability of HIV transmission through oral sex. Although there have been a small number of cases in which HIV reportedly was transmitted through cunnilingus, analingus, or being the insertive partner in fellatio, the risk associated with these activities is generally (though not universally) considered to be negligible. In contrast, while the risk to the receptive ("giving") partner in fellatio is less than the risk associated with anal or vaginal intercourse, it is not negligible. One study estimated the per-act risk to the partner performing fellatio to be 1 in 2500. Co-factors that can increase the likelihood that HIV would be transmitted by these activities include gum disease, infection of the mouth or throat by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or other lesions in the oral cavity.

When used correctly and consistently, latex condoms reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission by as much as 90% or more.13 Stated another way, condoms reduce the probability of HIV transmission by about a factor of 10. For example, the probability of an infected man transmitting the virus to his partner during a single act of condom-protected anal intercourse is 1 in 500 if the infected man is the insertive partner and 1 in 20,000 if he is the receptive partner.

These transmission estimates assume that the partners engage in the specified sexual activity only once. Multiple sex acts increase the probability of transmission in an approximately linear fashion. For example, engaging in the same activity twice approximately doubles the risk of transmission.

It is important to note that there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the transmission probabilities cited above. These difficult-to-estimate probabilities represent averages over groups of people and neglect potential interpersonal and intrapersonal variability in infectiousness and susceptibility to HIV infection. A number of factors play a role in whether a person will become HIV infected after exposure to the virus, including the strength of the exposed person's immune system, the infected person's stage of HIV disease and, in particular, the quantity of virus in his or her genital fluids, and whether or not the infected person is receiving effective antiretroviral treatment, which decreases viral load. The presence of transmission-facilitating factors in either partner, such as genital or anal lesions or other disrupted tissue, or infection with a sexually-transmitted pathogen other than HIV also plays a role in determining whether a person who is HIV-exposed will become HIV-infected. These uncertainties preclude pinpointing the exact risk associated with a particular sexual activity. Nevertheless, it is clear that a hierarchy of risks exists and, moreover, that these risks are generally small.

One way to depict these generalized estimates of risk is to categorize sexual activities according to one of three levels of risk (e.g., lowest risk, medium risk, and highest risk.) Sexual activities that pose the lowest risk of HIV transmission include masturbation of a partner and receiving cunnilingus or fellatio. Sexual activities that occupy the mid-range of risk for HIV transmission include insertive anal and vaginal intercourse, and giving fellatio. Sexual activities that pose the highest risk of HIV transmission include receptive anal and vaginal intercourse.

So what messages do these laws send? First, they ignore the protective potential of condoms. from Gallety and Pinkerton again:

Finally, sensible and meaningful HIV exposure law is based on conscious choices about actual risk and criminal intention. Efforts to reduce the risk of HIV transmission through condom use or through the practice of less risky sexual activities impact of these central factors. Both condom use and the practice of less risky behaviors such as mutual masturbation dramatically reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission and provide substantial evidence that an individual is not deliberately attempting to infect a partner. The lack of consideration given to risk reduction measures in the majority of criminal HIV exposure statutes is a striking omission.[...]

condom use or the practice of alternative sexual behaviors reduces risk sufficiently to be considered a mitigating factor or a defense to criminal prosecution for exposure, omitting discussion of condom use entirely runs counter to prevailing public health messages which stress practicing safer sex with all partners until they are sure of their own and their partners' serostatus. To whatever extent possible, HIV exposure laws and public health recommendations should avoid sending mixed messages to HIV-infected persons (and to persons at risk of HIV infection) regarding what is or is not risky, and what is or is not prosecutable behavior.

In another study by Professor Carol Galletly and Professor Steven Pinkerton from the Center for AIDS Intervention Research, at the Medical College of Wisconsin's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine found:

Public health interventions aimed at preventing HIV transmission emerged as formidable, though not infallible, forces with which to contain the US epidemic. Unfortunately, one of the nation's most broad-reaching, and some might argue, potentially most powerful tools with which to disseminate and reinforce this public health response, the criminal law, promulgated a message of a different kind.

The two researchers conclude "existing HIV serostatus disclosure laws not only fail to complement public health prevention efforts to promote condom use, they appear to undermine them."

Moreover, the disclosure-based norm endorsed by these laws encourages at-risk persons to rely on prospective sex partners to disclose their HIV status, if positive, and to assume that there is minimal risk absent positive serostatus disclosure. Serostatus disclosure laws thus may foster a false sense of security among HIV-negative persons who may choose to forgo condom use unless notified of their partners' HIV-positive status.

Stigmatization

The same authors write, "By suggesting that criminal laws are needed to protect an 'innocent' public from HIV infection, HIV disclosure laws may perpetuate the stereotype of the wanton or desperate HIV-positive person who is a threat to society, thereby contributing to continued HIV-related stigma."

The fact remains that people, HIV-positive or not, require intimacy. When faced with the unbearable to decision to disclose an HIV-positive status or to be able to have intimacy (whether it is kissing (a potential felony for an HIV-positive person in Idaho, or all out sex) -- most people will fall on the side of intimacy. This is a basic reality of Maslow's Hierrarchy of Needs and to expect anything less is unfair to the basic humanity of persons with HIV.

The community's responsibility

These laws place the responsibility for HIV prevention not on everyone having sex, but on the person who is HIV-positive.

But what the hell happened to personal responsibility? If Person A engages in sex with Person B and gets HIV or any other infection, who is responsible for that infection? Both partners are equally culpable. Let's say in our scenario Person A knew he was infected with HIV but failed to disclose. And let's further presume that Person B assumed Person A was HIV negative and was less than cautious sexually (like I was). Person B is just as responsible as Person A.

Why?

He has a personal responsibility to protect himself from potential deadly contagions. And ultimately that is the greatest concern I have about the HIV disclosure laws, that they allow one party to abdicate his or her responsibility for his or her own safety to another person, then hold the other person criminally responsible.

So where do we go from here?

First of all, we have to take the words of Matt Foreman, the former executive director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, seriously. During the Creating Change Conference here in Detroit this year, Matt said "We cannot deny [HIV] is a gay disease. We have to own up to it."

We, as the LBGT community, have to own up to how this disease is still impacting our community in the US in a manner which is out of whack with HIV infection rates in other communities. And we have to admit that we have abandoned our brothers of color and offered a hand up to confront the epidemic which is eating away at them when they are young (13-24). We have to tell the older men that the HIV epidemic is not over and that we cannot loosen the grip on safer sex practices we held at one time.

Second, we must move ourselves back into a discussion of personal responsibility. This discussion must not condemn or judge, but it must be open and honest. The fact is that many gay and bisexual men have found that bareback sex is pleasurable to them. Rather than tell them there is something wrong with them for fetishizing it, we need to stop and address the reality of barebacking by addressing the harm reductions HIV negative men can take. We must also allow for, and accept the fact, that HIV-positive men are sexual beings still.

Finally we need to have a bit of a reality check. Twenty-five percent of persons infected with HIV in the US do not even know they have the virus. We must revert back to the prevention message of the 90s. of using a condom with every sexual act, consistently and correctly and that each participant has an obligation to act in a manner which protects themselves from infection not only from HIV, but from other STI's as well.

That means to a point that no matter how hot the trick on Saturday night is, and no matter how much you want to believe him when he says he is HIV negative, it means you put a condom on him anyway. And you wear one to. There is no excuse not to do so. That hot trick might think he is negative, but in reality he might be infected and not know. He might also be infected and know and so lonely and in need of intimacy, that he can't tell you he is positive for fear of rejection.

It means it is time to walk away from criminalizing HIV-positive sero-statuses, and back into the operation that anyone could be infected with HIV and the only way you can prevent becoming infected is to take responsibility for yourself and protect yourself.


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 15, 2008 10:54 AM

Although I would dispute HIV is a "Gay disease" (Matt Foreman's remark, not yours). It is nearly 100% heterosexual in Africa. I do concur completely with the presumption that any person with whom you are considering intimate contact is HIV+.

As to these laws, they are certainly outdated and the American Medical Association should lead the way in influencing their change. Are they open to spearheading this needed update, and if not, what is their relevance in health care?

Thank you for your posting, Stay healthy Todd.

This is a wealth of information, Todd. Thanks for putting it together for us.

What I found the most disturbing in the original thread on this subject on the site was the fact that everyone seemed to assume that the HIV positive person in sex was the only person who was responsible for preventing transmission. I saw it in how the "victims" became infantilized - people were literally saying that they were "young" and naive, even though the Q-Notes story didn't say anything about their age. And the guy who was charged, even though the article said he was 23, was never given any benefit of the doubt for his youth.

It's a Rorshach, I suppose, of people seeing what they want to in the players. For all I know, the people he had sex with were ancient and therefore "should know better." Although by the age of 18, really, people should know to use condoms, and since he wasn't charged with statutory rape, there's no reason to believe that these people were younger than that. 18-year-olds can use condoms.

Besides that, everyone seemed to be pretty blase about the idea of these people going to jail, as if that's a nice, calm place for them to rethink what they did and exit better people, and as if jail does anything to prevent people from committing each and every crime it gets attached to. To the contrary, if you can be put in jail because the person you have sex with figures out that you're positive, then it's all the more motivation to make sure s/he doesn't find out.

And, yes, my god, we have to do something about that "Well... he would have told me if he were positive" mentality. It's not true, it transmits HIV, and these laws don't help out.

I disagree, Alex. It's not "infantilizing" to bring up the point that an older partner tends to dominate the younger - especially when the older partner tends to "man hunt" often. From what I've understood of the case - not reported in QNotes, no, but elsewhere - none of the victims were over the age of 20. In all cases, he spent time convincing them to engage in unsafe sex and deliberately lied about his HIV status. It's not that he didn't disclose, but that he deliberately lied, convinced the younger men to have sex with him without protection while knowing he would be infecting them with a deadly virus.

That doesn't deserve defending. End of story.

As I said in the previous post, if he'd used a gun and taken their life, we'd be up in arms. If he'd manipulated gay men just so he could kill them, we'd be claiming a hate crime. The fact that he used his penis and his victims won't die for years is no excuse to attempt to justify his behavior.

As long as the laws include Hepatitus and other diseases like TB, I don't have a problem with this. Including stupid shit like Michigan's law against sex toys is, of course, ridiculous. But that's an area that needs to be revisited by the legislature since the law was passed in '87 - over 20 years ago.

The government's main responsibility is to protect the citizens. Stopping an irresponsible monster deliberately infecting vulnerable sex partners (that he sought out for their vulnerability) with a deadly virus is a completely appropriate way to protect the public health.

Sorry, bil, even if you found out somehow that the people were younger, the commenters on the last thread didn't know that. But they still managed to say that they were younger. That's what's infantilizing - it wouldn't matter if the positive man was 18 and the negative man was 82 - if people didn't know their ages and had no access to photos they'd still be making statements about manipulating young people.

I know the idea that young people are idiots is fun and common in this forums, but unless they had ab-only sex ed, there's no excuse for them not to know to use a condom. He can lie all he wants, and that's wrong, but at some point others have a responsibility to take care of themselves.

Your gun analogy doesn't hold up either, since if you shoot someone there's a good chance they'll die. If someone who's positive bottoms in condom-protected sex with someone else without disclosing, there's very little chance that the virus will be transmitted. Even the other way around, with no condoms, means a 1 in 50 chance. It's not the same thing.

And can you please explain how this law protects anyone? No has been able to do that so far. It puts people in prison, which is very different.

It's not that he didn't disclose, but that he deliberately lied, convinced the younger men to have sex with him without protection while knowing he would be infecting them with a deadly virus.

No, actually it's only about the fact that he didn't disclose. That's the way the law is written.

And he "knew" he would infect them with a deadly virus? And he was "man hunt[ing]"? Positive men who don't disclose are "monster"s? You make poz men who don't disclose sound like they're sitting around and planning to murder their next victim. That's a pretty messed up idea of what seropositive people are like.

If an HIV+ man goes out seeking men for sex, deliberately doesn't disclose his status while advocating for unsafe sex with vulnerable partners, yes, he's planning on murdering his next victim.

Yes, he "knew" he had a good chance of infecting others. That knowledge has been around for a good long time now. Yes, in my book that's a "monster."

I'm sorry Alex, but to blame the victim to me is out of hand. Yes, they may be involved in risky behavior, however, they don't deserve a disease that is incurable and often deadly.

And Todd, I was infected in a very similar fashion to you. However, I have no need to be compassionate when my ex swore he was negative for several years. There is no excuse for this behavior, no matter the stigma, no matter the excuse.

Someone is intentionally and recklessly putting someone at risk. This is a crime no matter the circumstances, do you blame the victim of a drunk driving accident when they were the passenger in the car? Or the teenager that gets ahold of the gun that their parents left unlocked?

Matt, I am sorry you were infected by a man who told you for years he was not. But I have to ask. In those years, did you ever ask him for a test result? Did you engage in unprotected activities?

No, it's not OK to not disclose one's status, but it is also not OK to isolate and reject the HIV positive people in our community as a prevention method (which by the way is EXACTLY what is happening.)

HIV disclosure laws should deal with people who are willfully attempting to infect their partners, not with a situation where some one takes precautions.

And that is the issue.In New Zealand, the high court there recently ruled that taken actions to prevent the spread of HIV was enough, that an HIV positive person was not obligated to disclose his or her status.

Let me restate, I am not saying nondisclosure is OK. What I am doing is saying we have to put the personal responsibility back into HIV prevention. And it starts with saying Yes that is nice boyfriend that you say you are HIV negative, here are my tests let me see yours.

Todd,

In no way did I ever say that I was rejecting him because of his status. There are plenty of HIV poz guys I have dated in the past.

Did I ask him for proof? No. This was someone I bought a house with, shared several bank accounts with.

Did we engage in unprotected sex, after a few years, but that was not how things were primarily done.

But again, it still sounds like you're advocating for the man who infected me with HIV. Though I did trust him blindly as you said, there is no excuse for his actions.

And I disagree, HIV disclosure should happen 100% of the time. I don't care the intention, there are no fail-safe methods, and therefore, everyone involved needs to know, and thats why these laws exist.

You never did answer my questions on how this is any different from the other crimes I listed? They are unintentional, but there is always negligence.


As a sidenote, if you really want to understand HIV stigma, and the unwillingness of our community members to have a thoughtful and informed conversation, you need only look at the piece on the man who was convicted in North Carolina, and this one. The piece on the North Carolina conviction has 28 comments. This one, not including my own two comments has 3. Where is the discussion?

I think a lot of the reason is because you went into so much detail, Todd. Sadly folks want everything broken down into a soundbite length summary.

John R. Selig | September 16, 2008 9:53 AM

People are responsible for their own actions and should be held accountable for them. AIDS is a horrible disease and nobody should have to suffer the horror that it has dealt far too many. We have all lost many friends and loved ones to this disease. My heart goes out to everybody who is HIV+ or has AIDS.

When somebody who is positive has unsafe sex with another positive and doesn't tell them they are morally wrong and should be held accountable for their actions.

It takes "two to tango," and the sex partner who is negative should assume that all sex partners are positive until they are assured otherwise. They are behaving recklessly but they are not knowingly infecting a negative person. The reckless negative sex partner's behavior in no way excuses the behavior of the positive partner withholding their status and then having unsafe sex.

Now I can understand arguments over current laws. If they unfairly single out people with AIDS versus similar diseases or behaviors, if they are too vague or if the punishments are out of line then change the laws.

However, I just can't understand defending the behavior of a positive person knowingly having sex with a negative partner without telling them (either by lying or just not telling them because they weren't asked). Such behavior should be considered unacceptable. It is fair that the topic of how we solve handle this issue is up for discussion. I just can't fathom excusing the behavior.

A couple of responses here. First, I restate for the record that I do NOT advocate for a person who is HIV positive to not disclose his or her status to sexual partners. I believe if you are comfortable enough to have sex with them, you should be comfortable enough to tell them you are positive. That said, I am also not idiot enough to believe that every time some one discloses their HIV status people will respond with compassion and support. In fact, my experience has been the exact opposite. In general, when I disclose my status to a potential partner they reject.

And let us look at the issue of HIV persons engaging in sexual activity which is protected but they do not disclose their status. If having unprotected sex is morally wrong, where does this fit in the morality meter?

And finally, I do think in some situations there is a clear case for criminal charges for a person who engages in unprotected sex without disclosing he or she is positive. On the other hand, I also believe that there are much less invasion interventions which can be implemented to address those issues. Sadly, those interventions are neither funded nor supported under current federal and state funding guidelines. Its easier to send a person to prison, then it is to work with them via counseling to address the underlying issues (self esteem, loneliness, isolation) involved in failure to disclose.

To address the question of a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver. I certainly do not have the same level of compassion for that victim that I would have to the person hit by a drunk driver. The passenger most likely would have known the driver was impaired, and made a choice to ride with the impaired driver anyway. Again there is a personal responsibility issue here.

As for the kid who takes a gun from his parents, I think again there are several levels of issues here. A kid who gets mom's gun, has a lot of issues to address; as do the parents who have failed to secure the weapon and teach basic gun safety rules and values. We as a community are the parents who have failed to teach the safety rules and values around HIV.

The issue at hand is do you take responsibility for your sexual activity or do you abdicate responsibility to some one else by assuming they aren't lying about status?

the studies cited here (and as Alex will attest this post was MUCH longer with MUCH more information) clearly show that disclosure laws are a failure as a prevention technique, and in fact may be leading to unsafe behavior in our community. So let's address the real issues here: personal responsibility for your own safety.


Its easier to send a person to prison, then it is to work with them via counseling to address the underlying issues (self esteem, loneliness, isolation) involved in failure to disclose.
>>>>>>>>

Actually -- the person whose case started this thread (the North Carolina guy) IS getting off without prison. He lucked into a suspended sentence, probation, and presumably some counseling and a chance to deal with his issues.

Unfortunately these days, the U.S. justice system doesn't grant much wiggle room for "dealing with issues" as an option to prison. Whether it's criminal law or civil tort law, the system holds people personally responsible for their actions, especially when those actions harm others. Even the old leniency for juveniles has disappeared.

The state laws view "knowingly exposing another person to HIV infection without disclosure" as a type of assault with potential to cause death. As such, this crime fall into a category with hitting someone while driving drunk (this was mentioned by another commenter), or beating up your spouse or child, or letting yourself be carried away by road rage, among many others. There are very few circumstances of assault where the accused will be able to successfully argue his or her feelings and needs as a defense. (Interestingly enough, one of those few is when a gaybasher manages to convince a judge and jury that "gay panic" is a legitimate and exclusable reason for assaulting someone.)

But most of the time, any kind of assault is likely to get you jail time rather than counseling. The justice system cares more about getting a perpetrator of assault off the street than it does about rehabilitation. Sad but true.

Here's a scary thought: I have an HIV poz friend who told me this at one time, "I hate using condoms and won't use them. If you want to stay negative, use a condom every time. If you don't use a condom with me, I simply assume you're HIV positive."

I think there is a good argument about shared responsibility when it comes to having sex and practicing safe sex. We're not 14 years old who don't know any better. Actually we are adults who can drive, fight in the military, and own property, as such we have the responsibility to be responsible. If you're a bottom and want to stay negative (as well as free from a host of other STDs,) then use a condom. If you don't, you are responsible for what you get.

For those who lie their way into an unsafe situation, their crime isn't a sexual crime but something else entirely (crazed evil manipulators). To lump their crime into a conversation about HIV disclosure creates more problems when it comes to safer sex education and being accountable to one's own actions.

We need to find a way to explain this. Otherwise, stigmatizing HIV poz folks is scapegoating the problem and not actually solving it (as scapegoating with anything does). And, we're shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to safe sex education and personal responsibility.

Let's be wiser in how we go about this conversation. I loved this piece and will reference it often (for the stats and whatnot) as well as a conversation about exactly what is personal responsibility.

thanks for posting this piece!

Well I know someone at the moment who is infected with hiv aids for sure has all the signs gums the skin all that weight but she is in denial now with her new gf and she convinced her she doesn't have it so they have sex unprotected everyday and I just want her to know the truth I feel so bad but sometimes. I don't because. I tried. 2 warn her