Exposing someone to HIV is a crime in at least 35 states, even if the virus is not transmitted. According to an investigation conducted by Pro Publica, it is also a crime even if the sex in question was safe.
The investigation looks at the case of Nick Rhoades, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for not disclosing his HIV status before sleeping with another man. Rhoades was on antiviral drugs and transmission was very unlikely. The two also used protection during the sexual encounter.
Rhoades’ sentence was reduced to 5 years probation, but he remains an aggravated sex offender and can never be alone with anyone under the age of 14.
Laws like these (some of which also criminalize spitting, scratching, or biting, despite how unlikely transmission is in those cases) may seem reasonable—and, indeed, a majority of people with HIV support them—but ProPublica points out many consequences that have resulted from them, some of them horrifying.
In one case, an HIV-positive New York woman did not report being raped, because her rapist said he would press charges because she didn’t disclose her status. (New York actually has no such law, but the woman didn’t know that.) In another, a man who was awaiting trial on exposure charges was raped by another inmate and eventually committed suicide. But the most far-reaching consequence could be a huge backlash: Some experts say that by criminalizing exposure, many could simply decide to remain ignorant of their status so as to avoid knowingly exposing anyone.
Experts in the investigation say that by criminalizing exposure, many could decide to remain ignorant of their status.
Thoughts on the affects of exposure laws?
Should they be revamped?
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