Several Florida Counties Using Criminal HIV Transmission Statute To Help Reduce Commercial Sex Work
Several counties in Florida have begun charging commercial sex workers with criminal transmission of HIV -- a felony punishable by up to five years in prison -- in order to reduce commercial sex work in certain regions, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. According to Assistant State Attorney Uriel Neto, commercial sex workers can be charged with criminal transmission of HIV if they know they are HIV-positive and offer to engage in sexual activities that are determined to be "likely to transmit the virus," according to the Sun-Sentinel. He added that this type of criminal charge often results from "prostitution stings," according to the Sun-Sentinel. Although the Florida statute has been in effect since the early 1990s, it has not been used very often because few suspects will confess that they knew their HIV-positive status, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "Obviously in a case like this, you have to prove the person knew or should have known [they have HIV] and doing so could be a major stumbling block," Assistant State Attorney Ed Walsh said. Police departments, such as those in Delray Beach, Fla., have therefore begun using interview questions specifically designed to determine if suspects are aware of their HIV status, including asking about the types of medications they receive or if they are injection drug users. In certain communities, the use of the statute to prosecute sex workers arose out of an effort to "clean up troubled neighborhoods," according to the Sun-Sentinel (Stoddard, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.