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HIV Is Not A Crime - Or IS IT?

I wanted to alert you to a piece I wrote that ran a few days ago in Huffington Post Gay Voices Blog. The Blog deals with HIV Criminalization Laws in the US.  A summary and a link to the full article in Huffington Post appears below.

HIV Is Not a Crime, is a compelling, powerful, and tragic film about the criminalization of HIV in America, created by POZ Magazine founder Sean Strub.  HIV Is Not a Crime is a shocking film that asks some basic questions we all need to think about. 

Do you think people living with HIV should have to register as sex offenders? Do you believe people living with HIV should be sentenced to 25 years in prison for a sexual act that did not result in transmission of the HIV virus?

Would the fact that an individual did not disclose his or her HIV-positive status change your answer? Do you think someone living with HIV should be virally defined as a second-class citizen with fewer rights and more legal liabilities than someone who is either uninfected or is unaware of his or her status HIV status?

HIV is not a crime. Or is it?

Thirty-four states and two U.S. territories have laws on their books that state that if a person living with HIV has sexual relations without prior disclosure of his or her HIV-positive status, then that person is committing a crime. Some laws permit sentencing a person living with HIV to jail (for up to 25 years) for having consensual sex with someone who is HIV-negative (or does not know his or her HIV status) without prior HIV disclosure -- often even if a condom is used and no HIV is transmitted.

Prosecutions against HIV-positive individuals have occurred in at least 39 states (some states have used non-HIV-specific laws for sexual assault), invoking a spectrum of charges including attempted murder, sexual assault, and assault with a deadly weapon. Yes, ignorance has led to defining blood, semen, vaginal fluid, vomit, and saliva of people living with HIV as "deadly weapons" by the courts -- and has even led to claims of "bio-terrorism" -- even though HIV is now considered a chronic manageable disease. In five states alone more than 500 people have been charged under these laws.

Shocking right?

For the full article please go to:



Show Comment(s)

Comments on Eric Sawyer's blog entry "HIV Is Not A Crime - Or IS IT? "

Hello, Mr. Sawyer. Nice to see you, again. Knowing you, I am aware of your sincere passion regarding these issues. Thank you for bringing these warning signals to the HIV Community! People need to wake up in our ever increasing politically polarized fascist society. They will come for us next to save a penny for the billion dollar robber barons. This is just to way to eliminate us from the mainstream while making profits from our medications. Incarcerate us or inter us, then medicate us at a tremendous profit.

The sad proof about the meds is that we can rarely infect anyone on meds, but the rhetoric and the discrimination continues. Many states, like Florida, don't even want to fund care and treatment of HIV-positive persons without an amount of paperwork or a bureaucracy that many just avoid today. We still have 3,000 people on an antiquated ADAP program here in Florida that no one wants to address within the state or federal government.

ADAP has become a jobs program for feckless state bureaucrats in Florida and most other states. The solution is to criminalize, imprison and maybe medicate. Private prisons across America are big business. The next phase, internment camps providing jobs programs for the fecklessly uneducated and minimized military of the future running these camps.

The illusion of wealth for middle class is making money off of potentially sick from an HIV/AIDS Community while protecting the general population. Most ASOs, HIV/AIDS nonprofits, and state governmental heath system HIV programs have become jobs programs inadequately serving the very population they were designed to serve. It's doublespeak and a final solution. ADAP and the HIV Community are not jobs programs, it should still about the clients! I suppose we are the next potential inmates in someone's design for a final solution. Be aware and be vocal if you dare!


I never thought of myself as a person carrying a concealed weapon. Until these laws change, the stigma of this disease will always exist. Do these legislators know that HIV is now considered manageable and the rate of transmission is minimal if a poz person is on the antiretrovirals?

Yeah it's just a matter of time before the Goverment make an forces people with this desease to sign or be conciterd a plague on socitiy.. Starting a whole new underclass..
In a sence most of the people with this desease have gottin' it threw bad behavier, but there ar a lot of folks {trnsfusins, do to accidents, hemophicas and such} that are desent law abiding scitizens. Making it a crime is just plan stupid.
IF YOUR GOING TO CONDEM everyone that has this illness.... The only next step is genisides, wipe them all out, comes to the fact of destroying all that are sick, reather then help.
Hitler tring that once.. To elimnate a race and the mentslly ill and undesirables, the he felt had no right to live.

As if it's not hard enough living and having to deal with it, plus the ostracism that goes with it.
Second Class citizen??? Is that a joke?
Hitler rejoices!!!
Thank goodness I don't live in the United f**king States of A**holes.

Hiv has been around 30 years. We live in a country that put emphasis on personal responsibility on just about everything.

Blaming someone hiv poz for transmitting the virus is ridicilous and simply do not make any sense. Those who are afraid of catching the virus should live celebate lives.

Also, anyone who is having sex with any partner is responsible for protecting themselves and use precaution under all circumstances.

This law gives opportunity to those people who are mad with their husbands or boy friends can accuse their partner. These inhumane laws must change.

I am saddened by the continued stigma of HIV. I contracted it 6 years ago through rape, and have learned that it is managable. However, I would not want anyone to have to go through this and do not have an issue with laws requiring disclosure before sex. Managable or not, this isnt something anyone signs up for, and should not be forced upon anyone without disclosure. We let people know when we have a cold or flu to make them aware in hopes to spare them from getting it; how much more so should we with HIV that does not go away in a few days, but is life long, forcing us to see doctors and take expensive meds for the rest of our lives. HIV is no picnic, managable or not.

I'm obviously missing something here because, as a lawyer, I struggle to see what is objectionable in principle to requiring people with any sexually transmissible disease (be that crabs or HIV) to disclose that fact to potential sexual partners before their relationship becomes a sexual.
A consensual sexual relationship is based on the mutual consent of the parties to the relationship. If I fail to disclose my HIV status to a partner it matters not whether I use a rubber or not: the consent of my partner to the relationship has been obtained without full knowledge of the facts and so that consent is totally vitiated.
That I regard HIV as a manageable disease and I'm ok with living with it is irrelevant to the issue of whether someone else regards it as such and is happy to take the risk of infection that having sex with me involves (even I do use a rubber since nothing reduces the risk of infection to zero).
Disclosing my status might mean that I don't get laid as much as I would if I didn't disclose it but the reality is that I don't have a right to get laid and, if I did, that right wouldn't trump someone else's right to say no.

Sex offender? Me? What about the husband who married me knowing he was HIV+ and never said a word? What about his mother who knew also? They are both dead. It sure isn't a crime to have it, but I think I should be awarded some money for having someone give it to me especially when he knew. We are talking 1987. Everyone is responsible for their own body. But back in 1987 it was the media who said it was a gay disease. Gee, who is going to sue them for misinformation?
Let's spend some money educating the judges of this land.
Also, when you have a gay pride parade after an AIDS walk, you keep the gay stigma alive. The gays are to be commended for making science pay attention. But they need to also get behind the hetero part of society and inform them it doesn't belong to the gay community, it belongs to the world.

Disclosure has become a touchy subject for many. In fact, since developing the HIV Disclosure Mission, I've faced great opposition, mainly from those living with HIV. Sadly, this affects everyone, not just those who are HIV positive.

Learning to disclose will help people cease being afraid of a virus that can be tamed under medical treatment. But when those who have knowledge of their status refuse to educate others, or those who are educators, yet refuse to allow and support educating the community, then society will continue to subject those living with HIV to stigma, discrimination and criminalization.

Therefore, help those who fear disclosing by making a difference. Learn more at

I agree and disagree with many of the facts stated. For me, the million dollar question, the one I still struggle with; is it the responsibility of the Positive person to tell or the "assumed" negative person to ask? Also, HIV is one of numerous diseases that one can acquire through sex. If the majority decide that laws are actually needed, shouldn't they apply to ALL communiciable diseases? HIVers should not be singled out. And I do believe that the failure of the HIV+ person to notify is a moral failure.

I have very mixed feelings on this subject matter. If you know you have it and disclose and the other consenting adult says; I don't care if your positive, that's what protection is for, then NO! you disclosed they accepted and you are not a criminal be it HIV or Hep C another that is not mentioned. If you infect someone on purpose with intent to do harm then yes that person is in contempt of life and to me that's premeditated. I for one was infected by someone who knew they had it and didn't tell out of their anger towards whomever gave it to them, so let everyone pay. The decent and humane thing to do was to let me know and let me decide. I am now full blown for 17 years and I've been to hell and back in a hand basket so many times due to the medication side effects I can't even count anymore. We shouldn't have to ware a sign on our chest saying we are positive like Hitler did to the gays with the pink triangles announcing their homosexuality and instigating genocide. Unfortunately people are still uneducated, stupid and ignorant to the point that many religious fanatics still say it's a punishment from God. I always disclose my status if and when someone is interested in me sexually or I in them, then I throw the cards on the table. The media does more harm than they realize, people actually think that if they get infected there's nothing to worry about, now we have magic pills that will fix everything, not knowing they have just opened Pandora's Box! if the disease doesn't kill you the medications will like so many of us found out the hard way, will.

They shouldn't throw stones when their houses are made of cheap glass. Shouldn't we then also go after the hospitals, organizations and institutions like the Red Cross that have used tainted blood in the past knowing it and then settled out of court and swept it under the rug! Shouldn't they go to jail as well? Thirty years and the pharmaceutical companies haven't come up with even a vaccine to protect those who don't have it, what's wrong with this picture. It's simple there's more money in the disease than there is in the cure. And should a doctor come up with a natural remedy for HIV or Cancer he is silenced and written off as a quack in the medical community? One company alone made one billion dollars from just one pill and that info came from the inside. Let's stop pointing the finger and let's stop looking for a scapegoat. Man's inhumanity towards man goes back thousands of years, has anything really changed? Our politicians now sell out to the pharmaceutical companies faster than street walkers and they wonder why we the american people have lost faith, trust and respect for them. It's a sad state of affairs for all.

Have to agree with the last few comments.In my state of Florida we do have criminalization laws, however they are for ALL std's not just HIV. Simply put if you knowingly put someone at risk for an STD then you are committing a crime period end of story! It's NO different than the law we have in place of leaving a child in a car alone or an animal for that fact. Living with HIV is not easy & YES we all have made some sort of "bad" choice to become infected (unless raped or hemophiliacs) however not ALL of us got from sleeping around without being responsible, some of us like myself & the woman above contracted it from being in a serious committed relationship with another that KNEW! So YES these people SHOULD be put in jail for life as even though this MAY be manageable it is a very life changing & debilitating illness. You are all speaking of those of us who where fortunate enough to find out in time & respond to treatment, not everyone does. In my case this man went on to infect at LEAST 3 others & has a little black book of names of other women he had sexual relations you tell me should he not be treated like a criminal? Stop trying to out even MORE stigma on us people, you are taking the state laws WAY out of context...they include ALL std's not JUST HIV!! Non-disclosure from a poz person on meds or not should be a crime period end of story!! If anyone who is poz or any person in general decides to "get laid" as someone else here referred to it..then they should be held accountable for their actions as sex should be with those you love not just with anyone & everyone. I can see it now if they drop these laws HIV/AIDS will be more rampant than ever..wait & see for all those against it. It is beyond me how many poz people still are out just looking for "hook-ups" haven't these people learned anything? If this is such a "manageable disease" what's the big deal about telling another then..think about that??

If I have ever read or heard of a bigorty being excused and falsely and extremely un-ethical. a law stating that someone not or even knowing they have an illness being snetenced to time in jail, for being ill is an outrage to common ethical conduct an insult to the term morality.
This is by every means another of those far too often seen excuses to justify a bigotry.

yes a person who "does know they have a possible transmission of an illness to another should tell of it before doing any act which might harm another.
Do we now also put in jail anyone with any thing with might be transmitted?

Common sense is only common with those that have common sense ethics and morality are only found in those which have ethics and morality as well as have an understanding of them and not a bias which has no understanding of them.

Hiv/AIDS is not a moral judgment. I feel the stigma that surround "us"can be on the road to eradication if we stand up and fight against this vitriolic behavior of mainstream media. I have survived AIDS for nine years now and I now have a tattoo on my left shoulder disclosing my status. Yes, the World has been misinformed about HIV being a gay disease, that infact to me is the real hate crime. Fear rules the world. Many law makers and politicians use this fear to continue to marginalize a community innocent of such hate. The intent to transmit this disease to another is a crime. Is it the responsibility of non HIV people to ask, I say, yes. But because of stigma many will lie about their status so it is imperative that people take responsibility of their individual health. I have written a book entitled Out of My Second Closet, in where I passionately address most of these issues on this comment panel. Read an excerpt entitled letter ...this is my preface

I think in this country it is appauling to even consider being registered as a sex offender.I didn't contract HIV from sex. I contracted HIV from a needdle stick injury at work .by a psych patient who stabded me with the iv needle I was trying to insert in him. its discusting to even raise the issue.. So does that means every obese person should be singled out and put on a fat farm.
Hitler segreated peeps with disease and sickness and executed them it seems this country wants to do the same.

I believe I am responsible for my own health as well as everyone else. When I was having unprotected sex I was very aware of the chances of becoming hiv+. Then I was diagnosed, certainly I tried to think about who... but never to blame anyone. And I know about a lot of gay men who are willing to have sex with an HIV+ man without considering conditions.

Now say there's a man who is HIV- and he knows about me, should we sign a document stating that the HIV- man is willing to have sex with me under his responsability?

I mean first and foremost, when you're in the rush of having sex the least that happens is a chat about anyone's condition.

It is a matter of being realistic and responsible and the stigma... It´s not the end of the world like to ever think you're a criminal for just being HIV+... just twisted.

Lots of people are alive today because it is illegal to kill them just like lots of people are hiv negative today because it is illegal to infect them. I know that some sceptics would say no way, but I can assure you that had it not being that infecting someone with this virus is a crime, lots of people would have been infected. Just ask lots of HIV positive people how many times they have come in contact with hiv negative people who dig them for sex without condoms? If not because of the law many would never mind having that sex anyway. It is none of their business to protect their sex partners. Many often stop short of even kissing because breaking the law can sometimes break them altogether. Photo and name published on the internet plus jail time.

I am curious...what kind of laws is being handed down for the IDOITS that are not HIV poz and STILL having un-protected sex ?
If you are NOT HIV poz and having un-protected sex, you need to be seeing a shrink 5 days a week and stop blaming others for your un-educated decisions in life !

Too simplistic I fear. If someone cathes your cold or the flu you do not go to prison. Remember, this applies even when the person discloses and the partner still has sex with him/her after the disclosure.

There is a difference between someone who KNOWINGLY passes HIV on to others... Not one or 2 but how about 8 or 9?? We are not talking about a person who just is in denial but someone who WANTS to pass the HIV Virus onto others because they can't handle dealing with the the disease so they figure, humm.. since I'm going to die anyways, I might as well take as many with me as I can. Yes, there are people like this.. more than you would think. The law isn't there for someone who has a trick, and the few week relationship didn't work out.. BOTH people must protect themselves period, lack of doing that is like holding a loaded gun and playing Russian Rulette.. whos fault is that? your own, nobody else. The "bug chasers" those who WANT to get HIV.. for whatever crazy reason cannot use the law to send the other person to prison.. those who intend to infect belong in prison.

I had full blown aids. I always assumed that me and everyone I was having sex with was infected. Laws
should be passed to arrest anyone who doesn't assume the same thing. I recovered. I'm undetectable, I never felt better. This controversy, like all gay controversies of the past are for people who have nothing bet
ter to do, including gays. God bless them.

Your assumption that "everyone I was having sex with was infected" is as wrongheaded and head-in-the-sand as those who want to stigmatize those living with HIV. The fact is most gay men or most individuals DO NOT have HIV; I wouldn't wish this diagnosis on anyone just to make myself feel better or think that my assumption renders me free not to exercise due care when having sex. Re-infection does exist, too. And, as another contributor observed, there are other STDs just as nasty as HIV that one can contract without condom usage.

I'm planing to do my Masters of Arts (M.A) on this very issue . The Criminalization of HIV transmission.

It looks at Stigma
It looks at Identity Politics
It looks at Civil Rights
and it most certainly is a POLITICAL ISSUE.

This website is a wealth of great information on the issue. Thanks and Sean Strub. Keep up the fight.

Unfortunately i am not that surprised.. being a Queer Veteran, growing up in the South and doing Queer Activism in Virginia for seven years before heading west... i am just not shocked or as surprised so much.. but its frieghting so many states have laws remaining on the books criminalizing HIV+ people who have consensual sex with another consenting person or persons... the ignorance and the "make those people bad" mentality of our government.. NOPE we are not the land of the FREE... BRAVE YES... FREE NO... thank you i will have to search and find out all those states..

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This page contains a single entry by Eric Sawyer published on December 22, 2011 5:02 PM.

Promoting Treatment as Prevention was the previous entry in this blog.

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