From the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, fear and ignorance about HIV's routes and relative risks of transmission have fueled a backlash against people living with HIV, most evident in the laws that punish them for engaging in consensual sex or activities that pose no risk for HIV transmission. The media coverage that accompanies these cases often demonizes people with HIV and sensationalizes the risk of transmission, helping to perpetuate stigma that results in denial of jobs and services and decreased willingness to get tested. Because there is no evidence that the existence of criminal HIV exposure laws has any effect on behavior, the argument that these laws serve a deterrent effect is unfounded. Punishing people for behavior that is either consensual or poses no risk of HIV transmission can only serve to further stigmatize already marginalized communities while missing opportunities for prevention education. Legal and advocacy tools in this category address issues such as criminal prosecution for spitting and other actions that pose no risk of HIV transmission, the status of state criminal laws across the country, the effect of criminal exposure laws on sex workers, prosecution for HIV exposure as it relates to larger public health concerns, the number and types of prosecutions, and international guidelines on rational public policy related to HIV exposure.
Please see CHLP's Positive Justice Project for more information on HIV criminalization.
Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions, Center for HIV Law and Policy
The Center for HIV Law and Policy has released the first comprehensive analysis of HIV-specific criminal laws and prosecutions in the United States. The publication, Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions, covers policies and cases in all fifty states, the military, federal prisons and U.S. territories. People are being imprisoned for decades, and in many cases have to register as sex offenders, as a consequence of exaggerated fears about HIV. Most of these cases involve consensual sex or conduct such as spitting and biting that has only a remote possibility of HIV exposure. This publication is intended as a resource for lawyers and community advocates on the laws, cases, and trends that define HIV criminalization in the United States. Click here to download.
Guidance for People Living with HIV Who Are At Risk of, or Are Facing, Criminal Prosecution for HIV Nondisclosure or Exposure, Center for HIV Law and Policy.
This fact sheet gives basic but essential guidance on what to do when the risk of criminal prosecution for HIV nondisclosure or exposure may be a reality. It's important that people living with HIV have essential information about how they can avoid or prepare for possible criminal prosecution. Click here to download.
Transmission Routes, Viral Loads and Relative Risks: The Science of HIV for Lawyers and Advocates, Center for HIV Law and Policy, 2011.
Summarizes key scientific sources and selected quotations on the nature of HIV in ways that are accessible and useful for legal briefs and other advocacy work. The publication includes sections on HIV as a chronic disease, HIV as an impairment of the immune system and a covered disability under the ADA/ADAAA, the routes and risk of HIV transmission, and the use and limits of phylogenetic analysis in proving the source of an individual's HIV infection. Click here to download.