Commentary & Opinion
Convicting HIV-Positive People Contributes to Spread of Virus, Opinion Piece Says
May 19, 2009
The recent conviction of HIV-positive Toronto resident Johnson Aziga is "part of an upward trend," as more "charges and prosecutions for HIV transmission -- and even potential HIV exposure -- are popping up around the planet," Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ, writes in a Dallas Morning News opinion piece.
According to Hofmann, "Criminalizing people with HIV ... helps deepen the stigma around the disease, which in turn, undermines prevention, testing and treatment efforts," making people less likely to seek out information on HIV, discuss HIV with their partners or get tested.
"According to U.S. law, if you don't know you have HIV, you are less culpable should you pass it along to a partner," Hofmann writes, adding, "This provides a disincentive for people to know their HIV status. And, if people are unaware of their HIV status, they are not seeking care for the disease." Hofmann writes, "When people are aware that they have HIV and seek treatment, their viral load can be reduced, rendering them less infectious." She adds, "Therefore, criminalization of HIV actually leads to the spread of HIV" and deters people from talking about the virus. She concludes, "People should fear" HIV "rather than those whose bodies harbor it. The barrier of stigma wedged between a person and others they deem 'dirty' or 'derelict' will not keep AIDS at bay" (Hofmann, Dallas Morning News, 5/15).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.