The Controversies Surrounding Absurd HIV-Exposure Laws

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

In one of our recent blog posts, we detailed how sex crime defendants can face additional charges if they are HIV-positive. We followed that post up with an overview of how other states handle the problem of spreading HIV.

What we did not mention is the fact that lots of states criminalize having consensual intercourse if you are HIV-positive and have not told your partner, yet. These laws are rife with controversy and absurd outcomes that throw entirely too many people into the criminal justice system for no good reason.

HIV-Exposure Laws in the U.S.

There are 24 states in the U.S. that criminalize the act of having consensual intercourse with someone without disclosing your HIV, first. Pennsylvania is not one of them, though several nearby states are, including New Jersey and Virginia.

These laws require HIV-positive individuals to inform their partner that they have HIV before intercourse, or face severe penalties. In New Jersey, convictions are felonies and come with three to five years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines.

Absurd Results from HIV-Exposure Laws

Proponents of the laws say that the spread of HIV needs to be stopped or slowed, and that harsh penalties are the only way to do it. They overlook the absurd results that the law creates, though.

For example, HIV-exposure laws tend not to care about whether a defendant used a condom or otherwise prevented the transmission of their disease. Worse, HIV-exposure laws can be violated even if the partner of the HIV-positive defendant was also HIV-positive. No harm could have been done in these situations, but the law still demands punishment. Some laws even criminalize the act of spitting if the person doing it is HIV-positive, even though the disease cannot be transmitted through saliva.

The Controversies Surrounding HIV-Exposure Laws

The repercussions of these laws have created several controversies, each of which suggests that HIV-exposure laws do more harm than good.

First, the presence of HIV-exposure laws creates legal culpability for someone who knows they are HIV-positive, prompting people to avoid testing. If they do not know they are HIV-positive, they cannot break the law.

Second, harshly criminalizing someone's status as HIV-positive increases the stigmatization surrounding the disease. This actually decreases the odds that someone is going to talk about their HIV with a partner.

Third, some people rely on the law when they decide to have intercourse with their partner. If they are unaware that their partner is HIV-positive and are relying on the law's requirements that their partner tells them, they are put at a much higher risk.

Finally, most people are unaware that their state has a law in place that could lead to a criminal charge for consensual but uninformed intercourse. One study in New Jersey found that only 51 percent of HIV-positive people were aware of their state's HIV-exposure law.

Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense for Philadelphia

HIV-exposure laws are an excellent example of how reactive legislative work does more harm than good. Eager to score points with voters, lawmakers in numerous other states took an overly-aggressive stance against HIV-positive people and passed laws that could drastically alter their way of life, for no good reason.

Let us keep Pennsylvania free from this nonsense.

If you have been accused of a crime in Philadelphia, call criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.