Thirty-five states have HIV disclosure laws, in 29 it's a felony to expose someone to the virus.
In 2008, Nick Rhodes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for not disclosing his HIV status before having sex. Even though he and his partner engaged in protected sex and the 'negative' partner remained 'negative', the partner sued. The result: 25 years in jail. On October 22, 2013, Lambda Legal filed an appeal.
The Miami Herald reported a similar case on November 18, 2013. This time it was between two women.
HIV+ individuals can be prosecuted and jailed for not disclosing their HIV status even if they are med-compliant and practice safe sex!
Like it or not, the onus remains on the HIV+ individual.
Some of this might go away, as would HIV, if the U.S. had mandatory testing and included testing as part of any medical exam. This would remove the stigma of getting tested (as it would be routine) and at the same time identify, and get on HAART, the existing individuals who knowingly or unknowingly (1 in 6) spread HIV through unprotected sex.
Unfortunately, I don't see this happening anytime soon.
To this day, HIV remains an individual health issue. Getting regularly tested if you are sexually active, regardless of protected/unprotected sex, is your responsibility.
In addition to HIV, there are some nasty STDs out there that can cause havoc with your health. STD's are also a known gateway to HIV infection; individuals with STDs are 2-5 times more likely to contract HIV.
Gay men need to be able to talk more openly about SEX. In a recent article on healthy relationships, 3 of the 10 items had to do with sex and communication.
Too many couples have a 'don't ask, don't tell' agreement about sexual partners and assume that each of them is following the rules. If individuals in a relationship are uncomfortable about discussing basics, what does this say about our society?
If you are unable to inform sexual partners that they may be at risk for an STD, you should not be having sex. Failing to do so only puts your health at risk (and that of your partners) but, if you are HIV+, also subjects you to criminal prosecution! Some things in this life are NOT OPTIONAL.
We have a long way to go in the gay community. The combination of criminalizing laws, outdated information on HIV, a current epidemic of Syphilis and other STDS, and a non-publicized concurrent crystal meth epidemic, all combine to form the perfect storm.
We need to begin to talk openly and intelligently about sex.
In the meantime: Respect your body; take responsibility for your health; get tested regularly for both HIV and STDs; and disclosure your status before having sex.
No one should be afraid to enjoy a healthy sex life. Remember though, it comes with responsibility.