On this World AIDS Day, Lambda Legal wonders why so many US states still have HIV criminalization laws.
Scott Schoettes, the legal organization's HIV project director, noted on a blog post that '39 states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 80 prosecutions in the United States in the past two years alone.'
One of the most infamous cases involves Nick Rhoades, a hotel administrator from Iowa. He was sentenced to a 25 years for a single sexual encounter from June 2008. Rhoades is HIV positive and a condom was used; however, he did not reveal his status to his partner. Rhoades was charged with 'exposing' someone to HIV and is now required to register as a sex offender.
'Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV,' Schoettes writes. 'It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.'
These laws might make good press, but have no impact on the epidemic in the US. In a report published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 percent of new HIV infections are those between the ages of 13 and 24.
'Overall, an estimated 12,200 new HIV infections occurred in 2010 among young people aged 13-24, with young gay and bisexual men and African-Americans hit harder by HIV than their peers,' the CDC noted in a release. 'In 2010, 72 percent of estimated new HIV infections in young people occurred in young men who have sex with men (MSM). By race/ethnicity, 57 percent of estimated new infections in this age group were in African-Americans.'