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Legal Issues

This Month in HIV: Sex, Privacy and the Law When You're HIV-Positive

An Interview With Catherine Hanssens, Esq., Executive Director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy

Catharine Hanssens, Esq., Executive Director, Center for HIV Law and Policy
    "From ... 1986 to 2001, there have been 316 known HIV-related prosecutions \[in the United States\]. However, the conviction rate on those prosecutions has been pretty high, around 80 percent."
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    "In many of the state laws, whether or not transmission occurs has nothing to do with the elements of proving a crime."
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    "If you are extraordinarily sexually active and engage in every imaginable kind of risk, but do _not_ get tested, you are not likely to be liable, because you do not _know_ that you are infected. So most of these statutes actually _reward_ ignorance."
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    "Someone who is very informed about HIV, and knows, for example, that the risk of transmission is less than 1 percent, even without protection, and then uses protection, would really not be able to use that knowledge and that lack of intent to transmit as a defense under most state statutes."
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    "Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, if you are simply being interviewed for a job, it is illegal for someone to ask you questions about your disability, much as it is, under different laws, illegal to ask you about your religion, and so on. Once you have a job offer -- once somebody says, 'OK, you're qualified for the job; you've got the job; we just have some questions' -- the questions are acceptable only as long as they are asked of _everyone_ who is applying for that particular job."
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    "I have seen employers who may have no problem with someone's HIV status, per se; they just may have problems when that person needs an accommodation. This is a problem that people with other disabilities encounter. It's not always bias. It's not always fear of HIV. Sometimes, it is an unwillingness to be flexible, a fear of the inconvenience or the cost that accommodating the person with disability may pose."
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    Bonnie Goldman