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My Fabulous Disease

HIV Criminalization Faceoff: One Poz Man and His Accuser


A Video Blog

By Mark S. King

January 30, 2012

What if you could witness a face-to-face confrontation between a man living with HIV and the sex partner accusing him of not revealing his status? Wouldn't you like to be a fly on that wall? The fireworks could be mighty, as emotions raged between the furious accuser and the positive person trying to defend his actions. What might that meeting look like, exactly?

In this video, you're about to find out.


Episode 41: HIV Criminalization Faceoff: One Poz Man and His Accuser

Amidst the highly charged emotions of the HIV criminalization debate, "sides" are developing. One side believes that those with HIV who do not tell their sex partners about their status should go to jail. Period. But others claim that there is little public health benefit to laws against non-disclosure because they discourage people from getting tested -- you can't be prosecuted if you don't know your status -- and there are often prosecutions in which the risk of transmission is remote or even non-existent.

But taking firmly entrenched sides helps no one. We've simply got to get educated beyond our gut reactions to these prosecutions. We all could use more understanding about HIV criminalization laws, how they are being applied, and whether or not they are truly serving the public good. It's also important that we understand the anger of those who feel they were put at risk and are seeking retribution.

Mark vs. Mark

Mark vs. Mark

A full list of HIV criminalization laws -- and convictions globally (including for each of the states of the USA) can be found here. To find multiple resources on what to do if one is at risk of prosecution, who to call for help, what the law is in every state, or get palm cards with links to resources, visit The Positive Justice Project.

But back to the video: I couldn't help but wonder what might happen if an HIV-positive man had to sit down with his accuser and explain himself. So, through the magic of some creative editing, I produced this video episode of "My Fabulous Disease" to give a voice to the opinions and feelings of both parties. You can decide if I was successful.

I used this video editing technique to comic effect in the "When My T-cells Are Old and Gray" episode (the infamous video about butt padding, among other things). I've been looking for a good reason to do it again, and I thought this topic fit the subject perfectly.

Thanks for watching, and please be well.

Mark

Visit Mark's live blog at www.MyFabulousDisease.com.

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See Also
TheBody.com's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More on U.S. Laws/News Regarding HIV Disclosure
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: M J Brown (Richmond, Virginia.) Tue., May. 8, 2012 at 9:38 am EDT
I'm a HIV+ male, and personally I believe that a person or persons should be jailed for the crime that a person commit of infecting someone with the HIV virus. We make choices within in our life, good and bad. And yes, this a serious topic, personally I would rather be safe, and only deal with people who HIV+, and I will never step out of my circle, to be with someone, who is not HIV+, because it's a serious risk to take, would you rather have your freedom within this world? or would you rather be a prisoner? That's my take
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Comment by: anon (where there is law) Wed., Mar. 14, 2012 at 9:26 am EDT
We have enough HIV infected people out there. Why don't they go for infected individuals like themselves instead of infecting us negatives. It makes sense does it not !!!!! I believe in hiv criminalisation because it protects us from getting infected and at the same time, protects the person who has disclosed their status before they had sex which meant that the partner knew about his/her hiv status and they are protected lawfully by disclosing their status. We should all get tested for hiv whether we believe we have it or not and should have an international world testing hiv day.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Tony Sat., Apr. 7, 2012 at 9:41 am EDT
This is exactly why people who are the most at risk are averse to testing. This small sliver of the poz population is actually the group that contributes to a disproportionate share of new infections. Thanks for making the world a worse place!


Comment by: Drew(Sydney AUS) (Sydney , AUS) Sun., Feb. 12, 2012 at 4:07 am EST
The United States is behind the progressive world on Criminalization of HIV transmission.

In Australia, yes, we have had prosecutions, but very limited convictions. You can count them on one hand. Many of the cases have simply been thrown out of Court.

We need to put Human Rights/Civil Rights before Punitive Actions by the Courts.

Many of these laws were written during the early 1990's when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. It does not take into account the advent of HAART...which as we know limits infectious transmission if "undetectable" by a huge 96%

But at the end of the day....if STIGMA is ever to end, more people need to be upfront about their status

We need to show the world that HIV is everyone.Black, White, Rich, Poor, Gay, Straight.


Cheers.

xxoo
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Comment by: Anonymous (Los Angeles, Ca ) Thu., Feb. 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm EST
Personal Responsibility to be safe is on both parties, It takes 2 to pass HIV; So ask questions and talk it over and be Safe, ITS BEEN IN OUR LIVES FOR 30 YEARS. WAKE UP !!!!
I got HIV because I did not have safe sex.
and BTW its your word against the ALL others word ? so never answer questions about HIV without a Lawyer as your witness;
2 guys talking before sex is your word against mine.... PEACE
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Comment by: Juan (Castilla y León - Spain) Thu., Feb. 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm EST
... Do you even know how inspiring and good you are?
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Comment by: Cristofer (Caracas, Venezuela. ) Wed., Feb. 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm EST
Oh I just wish things here in my country were just as "open" as the are in the US. I've been HIV+ for over a year now, and culturally has been the most difficult thing I've had to overcome. Watching the video made me realize that we're not gonna be there until some years from now. Here, HIV+ people is some kind of sick-dead-sentenced people, therefore we can not openly discuss our status. I completely understand what you mean with the video, though i've only been on one side of the conversation. Mark you have really helped me (you have no idea). Thank you so much. I look forward to watch your videos and your insights. Love from Venezuela, Cris.
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Comment by: Alana (New York, Ny) Sun., Feb. 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm EST
People with HIV, especially the ones who purposely and intentionally infect others need to be held accountable for their actions. If they were held accountable, it problably wouldn't be such an epidemic in the UNITED STATES. Theres NOTHING wrong with these new laws.
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Comment by: marissa (canada) Sat., Feb. 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm EST
Everybody has a respnseibilty for their own body.
It's not your partner's fault if you guys don't use condoms. It's both. If someone dosn't want to use a condom and they pressure you and pressure you then leave the situation
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Hayley (United Kingdom) Wed., Mar. 14, 2012 at 9:20 am EDT
We need some honest people to disclose to theier HIV positive status to protect their partners. In this instance you should stop thinking of your d*ck and think of the female whom you could possibly be infecting. It is disgusting to not tell people before you sleep with them and then give them a death sentence by being dishonest. I am agreeing with the hiv criminalisation law to prevent hiv from being spread by these nasty hiv positive monsters who should only go for hiv positive people in the first place.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !! STOP STICKING UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS ONLY AND ALLOW US HIV NEGATIVE TO STICK UP FOR OUR RIGHTS !!!
Comment by: rolling eyes Sun., Apr. 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm EDT
ahhh, thebody, home to serophobia masqueraring as an HIV resource!


Comment by: Paul (Canada) Sat., Feb. 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm EST
To Gerhard,

Prevention goes hand in hand with disclosure and vice versa. I think you're problem you're (and many are) still struggling with is the concept that prevention is still relevant in 2012. Yes we can treat HIV successfully, yes you can live a long time, yes its still dangerous to have. What if you are infected with a multi-drug resistant strain? What then? The consequences of HIV are life long and not to be minimized or trivialized in any way. Would we even be having this debate if this was 1995 before the advent of combination therapy? I seriously doubt it. All efforts of prevention would prevail.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Gerhard Mon., Feb. 6, 2012 at 2:04 am EST
But it's not 1995 sweetheart. That's the crux of the issue. The prevention landscape has changed, and on a population-wide basis, no prevention is achieved by segregating undetectable gays. All your references to "multi drug resistance" and reminders about comorbidities don't take away from that fact. That you bring up comorbidities and misrepresent me as having a laissez faire attitude about prevention just betrays your own agenda. It fits pretty well with my theory about what this is really about.

Please, by all means, demand "disclosure" and scrawl "ub2" on your dating profile. You're still playing Russian roulette-except now you've removed all the blanks.


Comment by: David (Indianapolis) Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 at 12:45 am EST
I'm really conflicted by these laws. On the one hand, I see where it causes even more stigma. And, I know many of the cases in the news have had people go to jail even when infection didn't happen.

On the other hand, I wonder what do you do with someone who serially has bareback sex without disclosing? And, when infection did occur. Do they just get to keep on doing what they're doing with no repercussions? I know this is a very heated debate between the poz community. Many say the other person should have known better and made sure a condom was used. I do think there is a difference between someone who messes up once and doesn't disclose and someone who hooks up night after night with no care of whether the other person becomes infected. I really don't know the answer.

Oh, I have noticed many of these prosecutions are between heterosexual couples. I'm not sure if this is due to gay men not coming forward like straight folks do or whether police dismiss them. I'm sure most police would listen to a woman over a gay man--thinking a gay man shouldn't be surprised. And, it is interesting that many states don't have laws against HEP C, which actually is more deadly in the U.S.
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Gerhard Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 at 12:16 am EST
Are we talking about DISCLOSURE or PREVENTION? Mark's video was great, but I wish he'd been more explicit that they are separate issues. Too often, I see people like "Paul from Canada" justify disclosure rules by intentionally conflating them with prevention. Why do we do this? The unspoken assumption is that disclosure is vital so that the seronegative may protect himself by altering his behavior or "serosorting".

Let's remember that 10% of "negative" gay men are actually poz. By definition these people have a completely uncontrolled viral load. It does not matter that the studies talked about heterosexuals, the overriding fact they prove is that viral load dictates infectiousness. The higher viral loads of that 10% of "negative" gay men is sufficient to make the aggregate of "negative" guys MORE infectious than the average undetectable. In other words, it doesn't matter what behavior he engages in, a negative gay man isn't doing himself any favors by treating undetectables differently than those who are "clean". He's probably increasing his risk. Prevention doesn't explain why we demand disclosure.

What are we actually dealing with here? I disagree that the issue is homophobia. It doesn't jive with the fact that many of these prosecutions affect heterosexuals, especially minorities.

I think that what we're looking at is a lot more nasty and complex than homophobia: It is the ancient hatred for those labeled "impure". Disclosure exists to segregate people who have the virus.

At one time, we forced those who were "impure" to live in leper colonies. This didn't do much to control leprosy, but it humiliated, hurt and isolated lepers. Disclosure is even less effective at preventing infections, and is almost as bad for us as the leper colony was in its day. Prevention is only an excuse to hate nondisclosers. What people actually find infuriating is that someone who is "impure" dares to mingle with the "clean".
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Real (Los Angeles, CA) Thu., Feb. 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm EST
Excellent- Well done!I had a situation of telling someone my HIV status before any sexual activity, unless you count french kissing, and when we did get naked we always used protection. Also I was and I am undetectable. But after our dating relationship ended she unfortunately chose to not only to go public with my HIV status but after I took a restraining order out against her because her behavior- Her reaction was to accuse me of rape with the intention of infecting her with HIV. At first I was scared because of the stigma of HIV even knowing that we only had protected consensual sex and this was a vendetta for what I am not clear on to this day. But justice prevailed and nothing ever happened beyond a phone call from a couple of detectives who got their own dose of this persons motives. My point in all this was even when I did the right thing, by disclosing and using protection, the stigma around HIV created a fear beyond the truth and facts of the situation. It was unfortunate as I did really care about this person. I clearly did not know who she was and still don't other then I understand that she is a person who is dangerous and incapable of the truth. So when I hear of the criminalization of HIV it saddens and angers me. The truth is someone did not disclose to me their status and that is how I became HIV+. So that fact that when a person does the right thing , as you pointed out, another persons personal anger that puts that person at risk of jail is the real crime. Thank you for your video.
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Comment by: renee m. (beaumont, texas) Thu., Feb. 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm EST
awesome job, Mark!!!
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Comment by: MFC (New York, NY) Thu., Feb. 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm EST
First of all....Mark you have done a fine job of covering all the issues and facts regarding this topic....excellent, excellent video !
I think the most important fact that really hits home is; while a person is not legally required to disclose about other STDs to a partner (Gonorrhea, Syphilis, etc). Why must only HIV be disclosed? These other STDs are also "deadly" if not treated properly, just as HIV is. Why is this?.....because as you said, HIV poz people are being stigmatize. Another great fact that you brought out is that the law enacts NO penalty for the person who does not take responsibility and does not get tested. Why are lawmakers not concerned about this individual? Just like the law requires disclosure....shouldn't the law also require testing? However, I am not aware of any lawmakers trying to pass this "mandatory testing" legislation. Just pure insane reasoning and logic based on hysteria and fear.
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Comment by: John Eisenhans (St. Louis, MO) Thu., Feb. 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm EST
Excellent and important work! Thank you for your efforts.

And keep the beard - it suits you. ;-)
Reply to this comment


Comment by: Paul (Canada) Thu., Feb. 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm EST
I believe the person infected always has MORE, not all, of the responsibility to disclose their status before sex takes place, regardless of condom use, condoms break all the time. This Swiss study was between heterosexual couples engaging in vaginal sex I think, not gay men engaging in the riskiest form of sexual risk, i.e., anal intercourse. Add to this the fact that 96% isn't 100%, and also that semen levels of the virus often aren't undetectable even if the blood is. Sorry, but any way you want to slice it it is more incumbent upon the infected sex partner to make sure HIV stops with them.
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Comment by: Mario (Indian Rocks Beach, FL) Wed., Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm EST
The inner struggle that we constantly face, whether real or hypothetical, especially in light of the Swiss study and the 96% reduction in transmission when UD for six months or longer, is one that has been consuming me for some time now. Thank you for articulating this struggle that even though you have masterfully manipulated with the magic of video editing, reflects the concrete reality of those of us who have empowered ourselves through education and been raising consciousness on how HIV is transmitted and treated and who continue to be shamed by the very existence of those very demeaning laws.
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Comment by: Anonymous Wed., Feb. 1, 2012 at 12:38 am EST
Really well done, Mark! Great dialogue, great information, great presentation of the issue! Thanks!
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VIDEO BLOG:
My Fabulous Disease


Mark S. King has been an active AIDS activist, writer and community organization leader since the early 1980s in Los Angeles. He has been an outspoken advocate for prevention education and for issues important to those living with HIV.

Diagnosed in 1985, Mark has held positions with the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, AID Atlanta and AIDS Survival Project, and is an award-winning writer. He continues his volunteer work as an AIDS educator and speaker for conferences and events.

Speaking engagements: Mark King is available to speak to groups. Contact Mark about speaking at your organization or event!


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