Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Examines State Criminal Statutes Related to HIV Exposure
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday examined state HIV-exposure laws and other criminal punishments for HIV-positive people who knowingly expose others to the virus without notification. According to the HIV Criminal Law and Policy Project, or HIV CLAPP, 24 states have laws making it unlawful to knowingly transmit or expose a partner to HIV without first informing them of the possibility. In 15 states, prosecutors can ask for harsher penalties for certain crimes -- such as rape and commercial sex work -- if those convicted knew they were living with the virus at the time. Leslie Wolff, an attorney for the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California-San Francisco, said that while many of the laws involving intentional exposure to other sexually transmitted diseases are considered misdemeanors, statutes dealing with HIV exposure crimes usually are felonies. An HIV CLAPP report estimates that there were 316 prosecutions for HIV exposure or transmission from 1986 to 2001, but the authors of the report say that is likely a low estimate because it relies on news accounts and case decisions, not official data, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Some states passed the laws after Congress approved the Ryan White CARE Act in 1990, which, among other things, provided HIV/AIDS-related funding for states that allow for the prosecution of people who intentionally transmit the virus, according to the Democrat-Gazette. However, Wolff said states do not need to have specific statutes dealing with intentional HIV exposure to prosecute offenders (Marks, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.