Justice Dept. Pushing States to Reform Outdated HIV Disclosure Laws


Or else…
Credit: jonrawlinson / photo on flickr

An Iowa man in 2008 was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for having sex with a partner without revealing his HIV-positive status. That HIV treatment had left him with an undetectable viral load and that he was wearing a condom (meaning, the chance of him transmitting HIV was negligible) was not considered relevant under the law.

But in June, Iowa's Supreme Court tossed out the sentence, because the law required evidence of an exchange as bodily fluids and because there was no evidence that HIV transmission was actually possible in the case. Iowa reformed their disclosure laws (first passed in 1998) this year to account for changes in our understanding of transmission and to require that the defendant actually intended to spread HIV and for HIV transmission to actually happen. They also criminalized deliberate efforts to spread viruses like hepatitis and meningitis.

Now the Department of Justice is pushing other states to take a look at their HIV notification and transmission laws and update them to reflect what we know now. Thirty-three states now have HIV notification or transmission laws on the books, some of them dating all the way back to 1986, a time when people still worried you could get HIV from pools or sweat and when the disease was still a painful death sentence.

The Centers for Disease Control examined the nature of these laws and put out a report in March, arguing that the laws were not effective in actually meeting the public health goal of reducing HIV transmission and that many were not even aware of the nature of his or her state's disclosure or transmission laws.

Now on the heels of that study, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has released a "best practices" guide for states, suggesting they take a route similar to Iowa's. From the DOJ report:

Generally, the best practice would be for states to reform these laws to eliminate HIV-specific criminal penalties except in two distinct circumstances. First, states may wish to retain criminal liability when a person who knows he/she is HIV positive commits a (non-HIV specific) sex crime where there is a risk of transmission (e.g., rape or other sexual assault). The second circumstance is where the individual knows he/she is HIV positive and the evidence clearly demonstrates that individual's intent was to transmit the virus and that the behavior engaged in had a significant risk of transmission, whether or not transmission actually occurred.

For states that choose to retain HIV-specific criminal laws or penalty enhancements beyond these two limited circumstances, the best practice would be to reform and modernize them so that they accurately reflect the current science of risk and modes of transmission, the quality of life and life span of individuals who are living with HIV, account for circumstances where the failure to disclose is directly related to intimate partner violence, and ensure they are the desired vehicle to achieve the states' intended purpose in enacting them initially or retaining them in modernized form.

To summarize: The DOJ is recommending state HIV notification and transmission laws take into account intent to spread and actual modern risk factors.

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  1. This DOJ doing something even seemingly reasonable and sensible sets off every warning bell I have. What’s their angle? Because they always have one.

    1. I’m guessing culture war. If they can get a single republicans to disagree then they hates the gays and want them AIDS shamed.

    2. They want greater legal leniency when they ass fuck you? Other wise its hard to see one here.

  2. Yet for all the downplaying of the risk of HIV/AIDS, the US Federal Government is spending more on its then ever. Its up to 30 billion and climbing.

    That does not count what State and Local taxpayers are being forced to pay nor on the new laws about forcing people who buy insurance to pay for other peoples pre-existing conditions and preventive care…..t-request/

    And now even the minor consideration that people who have HIV/AIDS tell others they have it before sex is considered to be too much of a burden. Do HIV/AIDS patents take any responsibility for their actions or is the burden on everyone else?

    1. There’s no KULTUR WAR axe you won’t grind, is there. Of course not.

      1. There is the 30 $ billion and rising ax to grind, plus whatever is being forced from State/Local taxpayers plus people who buy insurance.

        1. AIDS is the first epidemic that has it’s own civil rights.

  3. For my money, the freedom for an HIV-infected partner to have sex with me without my knowing about his status is the whole reason I became a libertarian.


    1. no harm; no foul

      1. I know that the chance of his getting AIDs according to this article is “negligible” per the article, but suppose it happens in a case such as this? Standard libertarian answer is that it’s grounds for a tort or criminal charges — but if I don’t even know that you have AIDs, how is that an option?

        IMO, the change to requiring intent is stupid. If the partner wants to have sex with an HIV positive person after learning their condition, that’s one thing — but they have a right to know.

        1. I’m with you here. Drunk drivers don’t have the intent to kill someone, but it happens. There is a real and fatal risk for having sex with someone infected by HIV.

          1. Also, we need to remember that this isn’t the federal government’s job. Why is the federal government telling states how to handle this issue?

    2. Also isn’t this the same Reason Magazine which has no trouble with the government forcing people to take an almost unlimited number of vaccines all in the name of the greater good but does not want to require people to tell others that they have HIV/AIDS prior to having sex.

      1. That’s right. The State has the right to inject you for public safety. On the flip-side of that token, individuals don’t have to warn partners of real risks.

  4. What the hell?…..der-2014-7

    A Boeing 777 Malaysian airlines crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border, Interfax is reporting, citing “a source in the aviation circles.”
    “Boeing Malaysian airlines operate flights to Amsterdam ? Kuala Lumpur for 50 miles before entering the airspace of Russia, began to decline, he was subsequently found burning on the ground in Ukraine,” the source said, adding that 280 passengers and 15 crew members were onboard.

    1. Are you commenting on how unintelligible the quote is?

      1. No, that somebody shot down a Malaysian 777 in Ukraine and it might start WW3.

        1. /Drama

          1. From Wikipedia:

            The flight was assigned routinely to commercial air corridor Amber 59, a twenty-mile (32 km)-wide lane on a direct line to Dubai airport. The short distance made for a simple flight pattern: climb to 14,000 feet (4,300 m), cruise for a short time, and descend into Dubai.

            So the Iranian aircraft was brought down by a SAM, but it was operating 20,000 ft below the typical cruise altitude that the Malaysian aircraft was operating at today.

            1. So it was thermite all along?

      2. I’m commenting that a plane crashed in the area of the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. With almost 300 people on board.

        1. Ack. I don’t know why the Ukraine portion of that statement didn’t register.

          1. Probably because you were puzzling out the gendered status of the unanteceded noun in that sentence.

            1. That does line up with my first statement on the topic. Excuse acquired.

    2. Just saw it on Sky:…..5-on-board


      1. commercial jets operate way to high for surface to air missiles.

        So either dumb luck or air-to-air missile.

        1. The plane was at the altitude of 10,000 meters or 6.2 miles.

          1. Typical cruise altitude.

        2. commercial jets operate way to high for surface to air missiles.

          Really? How high can SAMs engage?

          1. During the balkan war, the US would not allow its bombers to operate below 10,000 specifically to avoid SAMs. Commercial aircraft operate around 35,000 ft.

            1. The SA2 (Nato Codename) is the most widely used SAM in the world, and has a range beyond 60,000 feet.

              It was used to shoot down one of our U2s.

              1. Thanks for the information.


                Developed in the mid-1950s, the V-750 Dvina was the first effective Soviet surface-to-air missile. The Soviets used it to shoot down Gary Powers’ U-2 over the USSR in 1960 and Maj. Rudolph Anderson’s U-2 over Cuba in 1962. The missile was better known by the NATO designation SA-2 Guideline. The Soviets began exporting it to many countries worldwide in 1960, with many remaining in use into the 21st century.

                Learned something new today.

            2. Neat. Thanks.

          2. The Russian SA-5/S-200 missile could go all the way up to 40,000 meters. Patriot can go up to 24,000 meters.

            1. It turns out that I am an idiot 😉

              1. No, the US was avoidng hand held SAMs. Full size SAMs can reach up higher then most planes can fly.

                1. So merely ignorant then 😉

                2. So, yes I am most familiar with the concerns about terrorists taking out commercial aircraft with handheld SAMs. So that is where the 10k ft thing got stuck in my mind.

                  I tend to forget there are military systems that are quite capable of this.

                  1. The other thing is that militaries don’t tend to publish or either falsify the “true” numbers on things like fighter and bomber ranges and ceilings. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they said our Patriot missile could only go 24,000 meters but could really do much more than that.

              2. The 10,000 foot deck in the Balkans that you’re probably thinking of is related to manpads.

                1. Thanks for piling on 😉

                  1. Sorry. iPhone refresh fail.

                    Francisco is going to wake up any minute now and prove us all wrong.

                    1. Don’t worry. I earned it today.


        A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 295 people aboard was reportedly hit by a missile and crashed Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border, according to an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry.

        Anton Gerashenko, the adviser, says on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit Thursday by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, the Associated Press reports.

        A similar launcher was seen by AP journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.

        It is very bad indeed.

        1. So how long will it be before some agency declares it to be a malfunctioning fuel line?

          Or does that kind of thing only happen in the US of A?

    3. BBC (via google news) is starting to track the reported crash of the Malaysian crash.

  5. some of them dating all the way back to 1986, a time when people still worried you could get HIV from pools or sweat

    I don’t know why but this reminds me of the 1995 very special episode of BaywatchA Little Help” (rescue starts at 5:05, argument starts at 7:04 and includes earnest music)

    Six weeks after Tracy’s death, Hobie phones a radio call-in show for help to cure Mitch of his depression, and a young artist from San Diego, named Callie, responds to Hobie’s call and he tries to get her to meet Mitch at the Santa Monica pier. Meanwhile, Logan becomes wary of intimacy with Caroline after she rescues and revives Ron, an angry and bitter former athlete infected with AIDS with a big ego and a serious death wish. Also, C.J. is in training for a upcoming ballroom dancing contest at the Malibu pier.

    Caroline didn’t use a mouth-guard while doing mouth to mouth and Logan was SURE she got the HIV from it.

    1. I thought of the time in Life Goes On when the dad hired Becca’s HIV positive boyfriend to work in his diner and all of his customers stopped coming in. Wait, wasn’t his name Jesse?

      1. Look, man, if you’re going to equate jesse to anyone, it should be Corky. jesse really likes cake.

        1. SO MEAN.

          Did you go to the coordinates I gave you after dusk or not?

          1. No. Email me and I’ll explain what was going on.

            1. Sent from my regular email not the H&R linked one.

      2. I don’t even remember that plot line, but Google says yes, and that he was played by Chad Lowe (Rob Lowe’s younger brother).

    2. I don’t think I ever watched any shows that had a Very Special HIV episode. Charles in Charge wasn’t going to put up with that shit.

      1. They made us watch 21 Jump Street’s Very Special HIV episode in health class one time. As terrible as that show was it was better than regular class. A kid had HIV from a transfusion because he was a hemophiliac but everyone thought he was gay instead. I think I only slept through about half of it.

  6. Iowa reformed their disclosure laws . . . to require that the defendant actually intended to spread HIV and for HIV transmission to actually happen.

    Mens rea and real harm. What a novel concept. I’m sure it is just a passing fad.

    1. Mens rea for sure. But real harm? Not so much. If real harm is necessary then I can take a shot at you and not get in trouble if I happen to miss.

      If someone knows they have HIV, wants to spread and goes out and tries to do so, they should be guilty of a crime. The fact that their intended victim got lucky shouldn’t relieve them of criminal responsibility.

  7. Giving Progs a concept like externalities is like giving a chainsaw to a 6 year old. This is definitely in the running for the dumbest OPED written this year.…..share&_r=0

    1. The cost of this carbon is hard to nail precisely, but the government’s official monetary valuation of greenhouse gas pollution is roughly $37 per metric ton of CO2 emissions. Many experts, however, double that rate; others multiply it nearly tenfold. So the monetary value of the carbon emissions produced by the average cheeseburger might range from 15 cents (the official government rate), to 24 cents (conservative independent sources) and $1.20 (high independent). The average of these three estimates comes out to 53 cents per burger.

      “If I take all the biggest numbers I can find and add them together, that makes an even bigger number!”

      Whatever would we do without “many experts” and “others”?

      1. “HeyJim, would you say a metric ton of CO2 causes $370 worth of damage to the earth.”

        “Metric ton? That sounds like a lot. With the consensus on AGW, it’s got to cause that much damage.”

        *typing*”others say…”

  8. I really don’t see why lack of intent is an excuse. Typhoid Mary didn’t intend to hurt anyone, either.

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