Criminalization of HIV Transmission

In the last 30 years, HIV has become an international pandemic. Exacerbating the crisis is a trend of transforming HIV from a public health problem to a criminal justice issue.

The medical reality is that HIV is difficult to transmit, that precautions effectively reduce transmission risk, and that with access to treatment, HIV is a chronic, manageable condition, not a death sentence.

In the United States, criminal law has been used to target people with HIV. Thirty-four states have statutes criminalizing perceived exposure to HIV. Prosecutions have involved allegations of non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission of HIV. The legal standards in HIV criminalization cases involve degrees of intent, harm, and proportion.

Pennsylvania does not have a specific law criminalizing HIV transmission, but the Pennsylvania Crimes Code contains a few provisions that have been used to prosecute people based on their HIV status.

Update: Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record – Clean Slate (Act 56)
Clean Slate is a new Pennsylvania law that expands criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors, which can be sealed by filing petitions.

ALL PAIN, NO GAIN: HIV Criminalization in Pennsylvania
HIV Criminalization is the use of one’s HIV positive status in a criminal prosecution, either under HIV-specific criminal statutes that apply only to people living with HIV, or under general criminal statutes where charges or punishments are initiated or heightened solely because of the person’s HIV positive status. HIV Criminalization undercuts important public health initiatives by ignoring actual transmission risk, exacerbating stigma and devaluing the importance of personal responsibility in HIV prevention. Criminalization makes it more difficult for those who have been diagnosed with HIV to disclose their HIV status to partners or to access and stay in care. In short, it’s all pain and no gain. Pennsylvania can and must do its part to reduce HIV transmission by ending HIV Criminalization.

Bibliography on Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure, Exposure, And Transmission
This bibliography is the second update of the annotated bibliography on criminalization of HIV exposure, published in 2012. The bibliography was curated by Dini Harsono, M.Sc., Assistant Director of the Clinical and Health Services Research (CHSR) Core and coordinator of the Criminalization of HIV Exposure Work Group at CIRA. The document systematically highlights the literature consisting of summaries of criminal laws, empirical research, legal and public health analyses, fact sheets and guidance documents, consensus statements, and other relevant references on criminalization in the context of the United States and Canada. The bibliography is a working document and will be updated periodically. (Harsono, Dini. Bibliography on criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission. New Haven, CT: Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale University; 2018.)

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