Five quick reasons why criminalisation of HIV is wrong

Dear Editor,

The Cape Argus reports Helen Zille as having said that an HIV-positive person who knowingly has unprotected consensual sex with an HIV-negative person, resulting in infection, is guilty of attempted murder.

This statement is irresponsible for at least five reasons:

Firstly, if prosecution turns on "knowingly" having uprotected sex, people are encouraged not to know, and therefore not to test. But unprotected sex by those who don't know their status is the real mass killer.

Secondly, HIV is no longer a death sentence, but, increasingly, a chronic manageable condition, and therefore an "attempted murder" charge is extreme.

Thirdly, tracing HIV infection to one particular sexual partner is extremely difficult, meaning such prosecutions will apply to a tiny number of people, whilst massively increasing stigma.

Fourthly, does the infected party not also bear some responsibility? There is always a risk, therefore use condoms, and don't believe someone's say-so that he or she is negative.

Fifthly, before putting people in jail, do everything possible to reduce the risk of infection: why are there no condoms in schools?

Those who knowingly infect others are doing a terrible wrong (Zille is right on that) but a populist approach based on criminalising sex will hurt far more than help.

Doron Isaacs

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Comments in chronological order (2 comments)

owen lonzar wrote on 20 November 2011 at 1:13 p.m.:

I appreciate what you have to say but I do think that even though it is the HIV negative person's responsibility to protect themselves doesn't take the blame off the HIV positive person who is lying. There is a 50/50 deal here yet it all seems to b the responsibility of the HIV negative person. Also it may no longer b a death sentence but it is a life sentence and does ultimately kill you in some awful ways and I have seen people with HIV get sick all the time. Also those HIV positive men who continue to recklessly have unprotected sex can and do reinfect themselves making them even sicker - so what to do about that?

Helicopter simulator game wrote on 23 November 2011 at 11:22 p.m.:

I heard a couple of guys talking about this in the New York subway so I looked it up online and found your page. Thanks. I thought I was right and you confirmed my thoughts. Thanks for the work you’ve put into this. I’d love to save this and share with my friends.
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