, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 451-461
Date: 28 Jun 2006

Conflicting Messages: How Criminal HIV Disclosure Laws Undermine Public Health Efforts to Control the Spread of HIV

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Abstract

Twenty-three U.S. states currently have laws that make it a crime for persons who have HIV to engage in various sexual behaviors without, in most cases, disclosing their HIV-positive status to prospective sex partners. As structural interventions aimed at reducing new HIV infections, the laws ideally should complement the HIV prevention efforts of public health professionals. Unfortunately, they do not. This article demonstrates how HIV disclosure laws disregard or discount the effectiveness of universal precautions and safer sex, criminalize activities that are central to harm reduction efforts, and offer, as an implicit alternative to risk reduction and safer sex, a disclosure-based HIV transmission prevention strategy that undermines public health efforts. The article also describes how criminal HIV disclosure laws may work against the efforts of public health leaders to reduce stigmatizing attitudes toward persons living with HIV.