A new study out of Canada indicates that a recent spate of prosecutions for HIV status nondisclosure may lead some men to never get tested at all. Todd Heywood reports at the Advocate:
[A] significant minority of men who have sex with men said that a series high-profile criminal prosecutions related to HIV nondisclosure had impacted their willingness to get tested for the virus or to discuss risk factors with medical professionals. The researchers further reported that these individuals were more likely to engage in higher-risk sexual practices. “Our results indicate that, although it is a minority of individuals (17.0% and 13.8%, respectively) who reported that nondisclosure criminal prosecutions either (a) affected their willingness to get tested for HIV, or (b) made them afraid to speak with nurses and physicians about their sexual practices, this small group reported higher rates of unprotected penetrative anal intercourse and internal ejaculation with, on average, a higher number of different sexual partners within the previous 2 months,” wrote the study’s authors.
Unlike Canada, where prosecutors rely on traditional criminal laws such as sexual assault, attempted murder, and murder, the U.S has a patchwork of laws specifically involving HIV. According to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, 34 U.S. states and two U.S. territories have HIV-specific criminal laws. Some of those laws criminalize failure to disclose an HIV-positive status to sexual partners — regardless of whether the virus is actually transmitted. Even in states without specific HIV statutes, prosecutors can bring charges under traditional criminal laws, such as assault with a deadly weapon charges.
RELATED: Last month Lambda Legal filed an appeal on behalf of a man who was originally sentenced to 25 years in prison for failing to disclose his HIV status to a partner with whom he’d used a condom and who did not become infected.
UNRELATED: Todd Heywood was my hotel roommate at this year’s Netroots Nation. You won’t find a sharper reporter on HIV/AIDS issues.