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Legislation (laws) Criminalizing the Intentional Spread of HIV
Jul 7, 1999

Rick,

I have been hearing about many legislative bodies (the US Congress, as well as the legislatures of many US states) who are passing laws criminalizing the intentional spread of HIV.

Are these laws necessary? Has intentional spread of HIV been a problem in the US?

And, finally, do we even know if it has been a problem? Are there security measures or checks that would prevent medical workers, or others, from intentionally spreading HIV?

Thanks a lot, X

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. The majority of people who are infected with HIV take steps to prevent the transmission of the virus to other people. However, there are some people who are aware that they have HIV, yet they will knowingly expose others to the virus without warning the other person ahead of time of their HIV status. A number of states have written laws making such intentional transmission illegal. I am aware of several cases where a person has been tried and convicted of such an offense. These cases are not very common, but have occasionally led to a significant amount of media attention. Most people are responsible when it comes to protecting other people from deadly diseases. But there are some individuals who will knowingly put other people at risk. It is because of these individuals that laws have been written to protect the public. In addition to these laws, there are things that each person can do to further reduce their risk of infection:

1) Get to know your sexual partners ahead of time, and ask them about their HIV/STD risks before having sex with them.

2) Practice safer sex with everyone you have sex with, if there is any chance at all that they may be infected with HIV or another STD.

3) Due to standard infection control practices and guidelines (universal precautions), the risk of getting HIV in a healthcare setting is extremely remote.

Laws relating to the intentional transmission of HIV vary from state to state. For more information on these laws where you live, contact your local health department.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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