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Straight Guy wants to date
Nov 8, 2002

I am a 37yo straight male and was diagnosed hiv+ 3 months ago. I am on medication and doing well and feeling healthy. I am ready to start dating again even though I thought I never would again. What are the laws and ethics about disclosing my condition to a partner? I have no intention of ever having unsafe sex again and would rather not tell someone until I thought a relationship was possible. Any thoughts? Thanks for all your help.

Response from Mr. Kull

Read Barebacking and HIV Disclosure for a thorough description of the laws, particularly in your state of California, and what you need to know when faced with the decision to discolse.

From a personal ethical standpoint, there is little debate about what your approach should be; take all the steps necessary to prevent sexual partners from infection. This primarily involves using a condom for vaginal and anal sex. Talking about it doesn't matter if a condom isn't used in the first place. Beyond that, there is fierce debate about whether or not you are ethically obligated to tell partners about your HIV status before you engage in sexual activity. I encourage you to read up on the different perspectives to see which argument makes most sense to you personally.

The law is a different issue. There are relatively few cases where an HIV infected person was tried in a court of law for knowingly exposing a person to HIV through sexual contact. It is even more rare for these cases to include consensual sex; you are more likely to see laws being invoked in cases of sexual assault.

Some states have specific laws addressing the "willfull exposure" of another person to HIV (this is the case in California), and in others, existing law can be interpreted in ways to prosecute HIV infected persons. Some states' laws are more lenient than others; know the laws in your state so that there are no surprises.

It's a real shame that HIV infected people not only have to worry about their own health and potentially exposing partners to HIV, but also the threat of being sued or imprisoned for having sex with an uninfected person. Even though the odds of this occurring are quite low, it's another clear example of social injustice against HIV infected people and oppressed groups. This is why I encourage HIV infected people over and over again to have a wide network of social supports to discuss these issues and receive emotional support. Discussing these issues with other people who struggle with discolsure can be an extremely useful tool in your life.

RMK



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