Why HIV Should Never Be a Crime

In light of World AIDS Day, I have seen several articles posted regarding the criminalization of HIV and the comments posted on pieces of this nature fall nothing short of ignorant and incredibly stigmatizing. The comments are an example of just how far the general publics' understanding of HIV is lacking, despite the leaps and bounds the scientific community and activists have made when it comes to HIV treatment and prevention.

Many states have laws in place that make it a crime to be HIV+. Most of the comments I have seen pretty much say the same thing - HIV+ people who have sex and don't disclose their status prior should be charged with a crime. Clearly, what many of these people don't understand is that these laws are so vague, that even when people HIV+ participate in activities that pose ZERO risk of transmission, they are still at risk of being treated as a criminal in the eyes of the law.

First, let's break down a few things. People who have undetectable viral loads and are on medication for HIV pose NO risk of transmitting HIV, as numerous studies have concluded. Yes, that means that having unprotected sex with an HIV positive person, with ejaculation, poses no risk of contracting the virus.

Secondly, the laws only discriminate based on HIV status. They do not take into account detectability, nor do they require any proof other than a baseless accusation. That means that even an HIV positive person who did tell their partner of their status, is just as likely to be affected by these laws as someone who didn't, because all it takes is for a false accusation to be made.

These laws are outdated, wrong, and do not reflect the current scientific evidence and consensus surrounding HIV. They also have the exact opposite effect of their intentions - they actually PREVENT people from getting tested and knowing their status, because once you have a diagnoses, you are now a potential criminal and sex offender.

To put it another way - someone who is HIV+, undetectable, and always has protected sex, has just as much of a chance of falling victim to these unjust laws as someone who knowingly exposes others when they are at risk for transmitting the virus. This is clearly an extremely problematic situation.

I want to take this a step further. Not only do I believe that we need to stop criminalizing those affected with HIV, who pose zero risk, I think we need to eradicate these laws entirely. Yes, I am saying that I do not feel that a person who can transmit the virus, lies, and does transmit the virus, should be legally held liable for their actions.

Here's the thing - when you take someone's word for their status and engage in risky sexual behavior, YOU also hold responsibility for your own reckless actions. You should know that any sex puts you at risk for anything, because there are many people who are simply unaware of their status as well.

That being said, why should the onus be on the HIV+ person to protect you when you should be protecting yourself? Furthermore, especially for those affected with HIV and pose no risk of transmission - why should they be forced to endure the stigma and ostracizing that comes along with coming out as HIV+ for a casual sexual encounter?

They shouldn't and that's precisely my point. People need to get educated on HIV and all STI's, as well as take appropriate precautions to protect their sexual health. Your sexual health is NOBODY'S responsibility but your own, so stop victimizing others simply because you are misinformed and decided to make a reckless decision. HIV shouldn't a crime, but remaining ignorant should be.