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HIV Criminalization Comes To MARYLAND! ... Wait, I'm HIV+ and I Live in Maryland ...

A Video Blog

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

January 20, 2012

Maryland's oldest and longest serving Senator Norman Stone (Democrat from Baltimore County) proposed the bill (Senate Bill 60) to raise the transmission of HIV from a Misdemeanor to a Felony charge. The bill currently has no co-sponsor in the Senate.

Justin's HIV Journal: HIV Criminalization Comes To MARYLAND!!!......Wait I'm HIV+ and I'm from MD

Currently along with 34 other states and 2 territories, Maryland does have laws in place that criminalize the transmission of HIV through sharing needles & sex. Some states have even harsher guidelines, such as Iowa, in which HIV-positive Iowans have been imprisoned for having protected sex.

HIV Is Not a Crime, 2011 Film by Sean Strub, Edit by Leo Herrera/HomoChic

In Iowa an HIV-positive man was jailed for 25 years even though he was having protected sex with an undetectable viral load. In Texas an HIV-positive man was jailed for 35 years for spitting on a police officer. Yes that is a nasty offense but we know that one must consume massive amounts of saliva to have a chance of transmitting the virus. Knowing this, conviction measures in the future could even be taken for someone who is HIV positive to kiss someone else. In both of these cases there was NO TRANSMISSION OF HIV NOTED. Across the country there have been at least 125 individuals persecuted since 2008. All of them were HIV-positive gay, straight, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, men and women.

Bill Details

There are two bills that would classify transferring the HIV virus to another individual as a felony in Maryland, one bill has already been introduced in the Maryland Assembly. These bills would increase the fine from the previous amount of $2,500.00 to a heftier fine of $10,000.00 and also jail time for the crime would be from 3 years to a longer time of 25 years imprisonment.

My Opinion

If this bill goes through than it might come back and bite the originator in the @$$. I cannot believe this. This bill will have to be written very carefully. This is the time of HIV & EVERYONE has the responsibility to protect themselves. People who do not want to put them self at risk need to use protective measures to not be infected with HIV. We should all know that if you have sex without a condom you not only put yourself at risk for HIV but for Hepatitis, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). This bill also removes accountability on both parties. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.


In the case of rape then there should be a punishment, because rape is rape and no means no. Also if someone knows they are HIV positive and they are not disclosing to their wife, husband or partner then something needs to be done. A friend of mine Mindy summed it up perfectly, "If this bill passed, the police could treat people with a chronic disease as dangerous threats to society. The bill does not address a continuing public health crisis. Instead, it perpetuates stigmatization of HIV+ people. In fact, it violates several international human rights conventions and declarations."

We as Marylanders should be focused on prevention and education and not criminalization. This is not right. I wish this Senator would understand that even putting this bill in front of the Maryland General Assembly is in itself ludicrous. Look at this bill, it's very vague and if put into law it will clearly label all of us as criminals before we have done anything and even if we were planning on causing bodily harm or not. This is just so wrong, I personally feel that if this bill is passed, arrests will go up, and what is important like education and prevention or even harm reduction will go out the window.

Also, the real enemy is HIV. How do you expect people to disclose their status if they will be tried and convicted for it? How can you expect anyone to be able to tell someone they're dating that they have HIV if they don't want the police called on them? How do you expect people to be comfortable about being HIV positive themselves if they are branded as criminals? How do you expect stigma and shame to be overcome when self esteem will be hindered if this bill is passed? This bill could jail an HIV-positive person for having protected sex with anyone. I can't believe that this bill is even being proposed this is not where our energy needs to be.

You can read the proposed bill here.


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See Also
More on HIV Transmission Cases


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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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