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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Criminal penalties for conduct that may threaten the public's health: Trends in laws requiring mandatory HIV disclosure to prospective sex partners

C. Galletly, JD, PhD, Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR), Medical College of Wisconsin, 2071 N Summit St, Milwaukee, WI 53202, (414) 456-7756, cgalletl@mcw.edu

Twenty-three US states have HIV-specific laws prohibiting sero-positive persons from engaging in consensual sexual activities without first disclosing their serostatus to sex partners. The extent to which these laws restrict behavior and the severity of penalties for violations vary dramatically: while the laws of four states require disclosure prior to engaging in mutual masturbation, the law of another state addresses only unprotected anal and vaginal sex; and while the penalty for violation of the law of one state ranges from 3 to 5 years imprisonment, a state with a virtually identical law assigns a penalty of 6 to 30 years. We conducted a series of analyses designed to characterize quantitatively and then trace the evolution of HIV disclosure laws from the first laws enacted in 1986 to the present. Descriptors included extent of behavioral restriction, level of criminal intent required for conviction, actions required for an HIV-positive person to lawfully engage in sexual activity, and severity of penalty. Potential influencing factors included contemporaneous legislation, notorious cases of undisclosed exposure to HIV, and number of persons diagnosed with AIDS in the enacting state. Results: There is a trend toward less severe statutes. However, legislative activity, some of it severe, has been prompted by highly publicized cases of undisclosed exposure. The absence of some associations is conspicuous: there is only a weak association between intent to harm and maximum penalties. Public health leaders should be prepared to respond to reactive legislative proposals by offering defensible HIV policy for sexually active PLWH

Learning Objectives: Learning Objectives At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Keywords: Legislative, Sex

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Policy Perspectives on Human Rights and Attention to HIV/AIDS Issues

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA