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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Three Scary Beliefs That Defy Fact, Reality and Common Sense


(1) Obama Is a Muslim. (2) Palin Should Be President. (3) Americans Believe Criminalization of HIV Nondisclosure Prevents HIV Infection.

By Bob Frascino, M.D.

November 29, 2010

Did you ever notice that some survey statistics just seem outrageously stupid, such as "24% of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim"? Other surveys' statistics seem downright scary, such as "47% of Republicans think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president." I recently came across another survey statistic I found equally as shocking -- and concerning! An overwhelming majority of HIV-negative and untested men in the United States (70% and 69% respectively) support criminalization of HIV nondisclosure! WOWZA! Obviously these folks have not read my last few blogs ("A Telling Tale of Trick or Treat: Remember to Spit, Don't Swallow," October 20, 2010; and "It's a Virus, Not a Crime!" October 31, 2010).

To those of you who did read them and especially to those who posted comments, many thanks. I particularly wanted to acknowledge Sean Strub (founder of Poz magazine) and his incredible work with the Center for HIV Law and Policy's Positive Justice Project. Please follow the link for more information on this vital endeavor. Sean, thanks for your tireless work on behalf of us all. The positively charged community never adequately thanks its heroes. You, my friend, definitely qualify. Consequently, I'll take this opportunity on behalf of the entire virally enhanced community to extend our heartfelt appreciation.

To Steven of Fort Lauderdale, regarding your comment "it truly is amazing how much fear can tip the scales of lunacy!" I couldn't agree more. Just look at some of the Looney Tunes fluffernutters who just got elected (or nearly elected) to Congress!

To James Masten of New York, your statement: "as a clinician in the field for twenty years, I concur that continued stigmatization of people living with HIV undermines prevention efforts" captures one of the strongest reasons criminalization of HIV nondisclosure is so detrimental and counterproductive to HIV-prevention efforts.

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To Realize of Los Angeles, sorry your "ex" transformed from affectionate, sultry seductress (did she really ask you how does someone get you into bed?) into a slanderous, sinister wicked bitch of the west! Your story certainly dramatically proves the point that HIV disclosure can be fraught with risks -- and that you should think before dating anyone with a history of multiple personalities.

While I'm responding to comments from my recent blog, I should advise Felix of the Big Apple that "safe only" is not code for "I'm HIV positive." Rather, "safe only" means "whether you are positive or negative I only play safe and I'm not interested in you if you choose to do otherwise." The code for "I'm HIV positive" is "I'm HIV positive."

I know, I know, it's not such a difficult code to crack, but after all Felix, some of the folks on Craigslist are bi-curious, confused, married, closeted, guilt-ridden dudes who voted for Bush -- twice. Needless to say, the "code" needs to be highly transparent and completely obvious for such an uninformed and clueless group. If you disclose your HIV status in your online profile or before your NSA [no-strings-attached] horned-up Mr. Hunky-Spunky shows up on your front stoop, you don't have to worry about the proper timing of your revelation. However, if that's not your preference, it's best to advise your stud of your virally enhanced status well before you begin the dance with no pants. Check out The Body's forum on safer sex and prevention. We have a chapter in the archives devoted to HIV-disclosure issues.

To Elizabeth, I agree "... secrets gnaw at the soul." Good luck with your new blog and your "Christian fundamentalist in-laws"! I think you'll need more luck with the latter than the former. (Have you considered wearing to Thanksgiving dinner one of those tee-shirts that says, "So many right-wing Christian fundamentalist zealots; so few lions"?)

Finally, to Dave, Marco and Leigh of VA, Mexico City and Montreal respectively, you're welcome and I adore you too! Let's all be BFFs, OK?

OK, back to today's topic and the disturbing survey results. This study was published in last month's issue of AIDS Care (Horvath, KJ et al. AIDS Care 22:1221-1228, 2010). It was also alarming to note that two-thirds of gay men in the U.S. believe it should be illegal for an HIVer to have unprotected anal sex without disclosure. Support for HIV nondisclosure criminalization correlated with:

  • HIV-negative or unknown HIV status
  • Less education
  • Heterosexuality
  • Living in a state perceived as hostile toward LGBT issues
  • Fewer episodes of unprotected anal sex
  • Voting for Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars"

OK, I made that last one up, but the rest are absolutely true.

The statistic in the study I found most surprising and disturbing is that 38% of HIV-positive men endorsed criminalization for HIV nondisclosure. What's up with that???

There can be no doubt these results are nearly as disturbing and ill-reasoned as the results of the recent congressional elections! Nondisclosure criminalization laws place strong reliance on HIV-status disclosure as an HIV-prevention method. This has been shown to lack scientific basis, credibility and common sense (just like many Tea Party candidates).

I've now spent three consecutive blogs on this topic. Yes, I do think it's that important. We must inform many and reeducate others of the fact that HIV nondisclosure criminalization is counterproductive to HIV-prevention efforts. It's going to be one of those time-consuming and always-challenging "need to change hearts and minds" campaigns. We all have our work cut out for us. So let's get those conversations started and the draconian counterproductive laws repealed before a gaggle of Mama Grizzlies tries to enshrine this lunacy in the Bill of Rights. Yeah, I know, that's not where criminalization laws would be "enshrined," but many of the new GOP Congress people haven't a clue about so many aspects of the Constitution, Bill of Rights or government in general. Who knows what they might try to do!?! We must not let them "refudiate" common sense and scientific facts.

Finally, loyal readers, I promise to return to sex for my next blog topic. So stay tuned you horn-dogs (and bi-curious, confused, married, closeted Craigslisters).

Dr. Bob


Want to get in touch with Dr. Bob? You can reach him through his "Ask the Experts" forum, by sending a message to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, or by leaving a comment for him below. (If it's a private message, or if it includes personal info such as your e-mail address or phone number, we won't post the comment, but we will send it along to him.)

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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

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Douglas H. (UK) Fri., Nov. 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm EDT
To my mind, knowingly infecting someone with AIDS or making them HIV positive is the same as injecting them with a syringe to give them polio. Both are horrific crimes and should be criminally punishable and there should be a very real potential for civil lawsuit.
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Comment by: Paul (Canada) Sat., Feb. 5, 2011 at 7:15 am EST
I've got to say I don't know how much I agree with your argument aside from the fear of getting tested aspect because of the possible criminal consequences. I believe those knowingly, cruelly and irresponsibly infected by someone knowing of his or her status but refusing to say so are in a sense partial victims. I believe we can truly in life only consent to what we know: All the more reason to get to know your sexual partners and always use condoms, true.

However, naivity of the part of the infectee should not absolve the infector of his or her responsibility to disclose their knowledge of their own status.
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Comment by: Tom (Portsmouth, VA) Thu., Dec. 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm EST
The solution to all this is real easy. I just assume that EVERYONE I have sex with, is POZ (I'm neg as of last test several months ago). It is MY responsibility to PROTECT MY health! Regardless of the other's status, I WILL wear a condom.
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Comment by: Discouraged (True North) Sun., Dec. 26, 2010 at 7:59 am EST
To start, I am an HIV+ homosexual male. Within the last month, another HIV+ guy has been arrested in my city for non-disclosure and this case has been blown out of proportion in the media. I am so scared I can hardly function. I COULD BE THIS GUY, HE DID NOTHING WRONG! I feel like the witch hunt has begun here and it's just a matter of time before they come to get me, too. This guy's name and face and intimate conversations he's had are all over the news and he has zero credibility left- and he's being held in jail. He's certainly lost his job already and who knows what's happening with his appartment and possessions. Even if he's acquitted he will never be able to get a job or rent an appartment in this city or beyond. He will have no friends, just complete embarrassment and shame. I just don't understand why, before I became positive I knew it was my responsibility to protect myself (and no one else's) and now that I am positive, I am responsible for everyone else? The fear associated with prosecution for non-disclosure is so much worse than actually being positive. I feel like I just need to move to some third world country and hide. The worst part of it all, is that I would love to be active in the community and put my face out there as a positive *positive* guy but I am forced to hide my status and my true self at that, in order to not be criminalized. If a guy wants to have a sexual encounter with me, or anyone, he should be responsible for his own safety and health. I would never purposely harm someone, but come on, this is ludicrous. So, right now what I'm thinking is where in the world I can move and have the right to sexual freedom and not be jailed for it. Switzerland, Italy maybe? And I thought I already lived in a great country where the laws made sense... I would have loved to leave my email address to hear back but I can't, got to remain ANONYMOUS!
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Comment by: Henrietta Hammertoe (a northern town too) Thu., Dec. 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm EST
everyone is responsibile for their behavior. if you are looking on CL or such most don't mention status or ask any questions. I understand your paranoia but if you told even 1 person trust me your biz is already out there. Geographical cures aren't always a bad idea but to move someplace and not change your behavior (and people don't change) you are in for more of what you already have. if you are hooking up anon or using gh's you have no obligation but if you are walking the two-world tight-rope you are going to cause yourself plenty of angst.
Comment by: Mark Janes (Sonoma County, CA) Thu., Dec. 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm EST
I agree with Henrietta's comment. If I were you, I'd start looking at places where HIV+ isn't stigmatized and your sexual behavior is legal. If you're not a hard-bitten community activist I'd advise against staying and fighting. If you have the resources to move to Europe and settle there, why are you still in Jesusland? If you don't have the resources for a move to Europe, states such as California and New York overall are less preoccupied with persecuting people with HIV/AIDS. Finally, it sounds as though the persecutors (it's the only term I find fitting) are trying to prove something based ENTIRELY on the alleged VICTIM'S NOT HAVING BEEN TOLD SOMETHING. A vindictive or sadistic person could ALL TOO EASILY misuse such power, and it (by your admission and actions) drives people with HIV/AIDS underground. This is a case where arbitrary morality has defeated sound infection-control.
Comment by: sphynex (New Jersey) Mon., Jan. 3, 2011 at 8:44 am EST
I think you are right some times is a witch hunt. I personally think both parties should take responsibility it is just as important for some one negative to be as responsible as a positive person not mentioning the mental state a positive person goes through not using care also exposes every one to many other transmitted disease. only god knows if you are the victim and the pray. so much for privacy of medical disclosure.


Comment by: Lisa (Michigan) Sat., Dec. 25, 2010 at 7:36 am EST
I'm sorry but I do not agree with this? I understand that you & many others think that criminalization only leads to those not being tested however we all know that IF people do not get tested eventually they will get sick & find out anyway? My concern is how many others they will be with until that happens? I'm not sure what the "right" answer is in this matter but I do NOT agree with doing away with being able to prosecute another that knowingly passes on this virus to another because they have no reprecussions in not doing so. As someone who contracted HIV from another who KNEW he had been exposed many years ago yet either choose NOT to be tested or was tested anonamously then passed it on to myself as well as at least 2 others I know of (one of which he intentionally had a child with STILL without disclosing!) I am mortified that you are shocked by the statistics of those whom are for criminalization! I was unable to press charges against this person for the mere fact that he did not have a postive test by name in his medical records that were ordered by the detective working on my case. I had given the detective 2 other names, dates, etc which should have been more than enough to prosecute this person IF the detective choose to do his job however he did NOT due to his lack of knowledge about this virus & due to the city's fear of violating this person's rights! What about MY rights & the rights of all the other women whom he's infected along the way knowingly? Those whom do not believe in criminalization are basing their facts on others being "honest" & we all know that many are not. I do not believe that this will do anything to change the stigma we have placed on us & do believe that this will only lead to MORE cases of HIV if this change is made!
For the record I hold myself just as responsibile for my HIV as I made a choice to have unprotected sex with a parter I was in a long term relationship with. I did have the "talk" with him but did not make him test
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Darla (Dallas Texas) Fri., Dec. 31, 2010 at 1:13 am EST
Lisa, as another ( of many) women who was knowingly infected I couldn't agree with you more!!! I am SICK of these decrim amoral scumbags who want to place the responsibility for infection on everyone BUT THEMSELVES.. I was fortunate enough to be able to put the guy who infected me( and 12 other women) away for 45 years-- I too was told we were monogamous and lied to about his status. How anybody could think this is anything but unconscionable is beyond me. I'm sure it INCREASES stigma for negative people to think all the HIV poz peolpe want a free pass. If this guy were REALLY responsible about disclosure and protection he would have nothing to worry about. The fact that he is terrified only indicates to me he is already guilty of something.
I am sick of people blaming the victim!!! Nobody blames drive-by vics , burglary vics or Bernie Madoff vics. You are no different and neither am I. Stay strong!! And if the statute of limitations hasn't run out let me know-- I'll b happy to help.
God bless you


Comment by: Mico (Washington, DC) Thu., Dec. 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm EST
With HIV, I disclose, even with online sites. When someone hits me up, I mention the poz thing in my email. (Some men really don't read profiles)

This week, I had a MWM man hit me up. Telling me he wants to go raw with me. Let's put aside the condom thing for now. (BTW, my profile does not say I do raw)

I reminded this man of my status, he knew and it's ok with him. DUH!?!?

So, at face value, this is a man, wanting to 'top' me raw and do some things to me that he described. When he gets time between his busy family life and his busy work life.

He could be having a fantasy and I hope it's all in his head, where it better stay.

Some people care, some people don't.
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Bob Frascino, M.D., was President and Founder of The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation. He had been an outspoken, popular expert in TheBody.com's "Ask the Experts" forums on safe sex and fatigue/anemia since 2000. Once a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Frascino served as Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, and Allergy, at Stanford University Medical Center from 1983 until 2001. He was a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and had also been a distinguished member of the executive boards of numerous state and regional associations.

We're inexpressibly saddened to share the news that Dr. Frascino passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. Click here to read more and to share your thoughts.


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