Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Legally Bound to Tell: Do Laws against Exposing Someone to HIV Protect People or Merely Add to the Stigma? (HIV)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Legally Bound to Tell: Do Laws against Exposing Someone to HIV Protect People or Merely Add to the Stigma? (HIV)

Article excerpt

The recent arrests of three South Dakota men on charges of intentionally spreading HIV have refocused attention on laws that make it a crime to expose someone to the virus--and the question of whether these laws really make a difference. The first person to be charged under South Dakota's law was Nikko Briteramos, 18, who was arrested in late April and is accused of exposing at least 10 women to the virus. Just a week later, in an unrelated case, roommates William Kenneth Jenigen and James Lee Woods were charged with intentionally exposing several men and women through unprotected sex.

At least half of the states in the Union have adopted some type of law that makes it a crime--sometimes even a felony, as in South Dakota--to transmit HIV or expose someone to it without their knowledge and consent. But many legal experts say these laws have no effect and that few people even know these laws exist.

"There's no evidence that HIV-specific criminal exposure laws do anything to deter people from having unsafe sex," said Catherine Hanssens, director of the AIDS Project of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. …

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