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Exposure
Feb 27, 2012

I have a niece who was dating and sleeping with a guy for about three months. They had an argument and he admitted he was HIV positive. My question is, if he is HIV positive, are there actions that can be taken against him, like attempted murder, because they did have unprotected sex?

Response from Ms. Douaihy

Dear Writer,

Thank you for writing. Your question -- is exposing someone to HIV a crime? is one I am asked frequently. Before I give you general advice allow me to offer some background on this subject. At present, more than half American states have laws that criminalize HIV exposure. These laws vary from state to state. Typically, these laws make it a crime to expose a person to HIV by way of needle sharing, sexual conduct, and in some cases, bodily fluids. In some states, to prosecute a person for criminal HIV exposure, the District Attorney need not show actual transmission resulted, or even intent to transmit, but only that person knew of his or her own HIV status. Criminalization of HIV exposure raises significant concerns for persons living with HIV/AIDS and has critics and supporters alike. Supporters suggest that criminalization helps reduce HIV transmission. Critics argue that criminal exposure laws do not decrease risk behavior and further stigmatize people living with HIV/AIDS. Recently, federal legislation has been proposed calling for a review of state laws regarding criminalization of HIV exposure.

Now to your question. Whether an action may be taken against your niece's ex depends on several factors including if her state has a criminal exposure law. To learn more about what conduct may constitute a crime in your state you should contact your local police precinct and ask for specific information. Depending on the circumstances, you may also want to counsel your niece to explore alternate dispute resolution options. For some individuals who have experienced a violation of trust between family, friends or intimate partners, the legal system is not always able to heal wounds.


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