A topic of conversation had come up in the comment section on a popular blog recently as whether or not someone who is knowingly infected with the HIV virus has a responsibility to inform a potential sex partner. I had thought this to be a ‘no-brainer,’ but apparently there is some contention that has led to some rather heated interactions. It has been put forth by a certain individual(s) that the uninfected partner bears the responsibility to ask if the other is infected.
If the uninfected partner does not ask, and becomes infected as a result, this is not only their fault but there should be no ramifications (either socially, legally or criminally) against the infected partner. As well, it had also been put forth that any requirement for the infected person to inform a potential uninfected partner is discriminatory against the one infected.
The blog post on “Crommunist” (Freethought Blogs) was not written by Crommunist, himself, but by a writer named Haifisch Geweint. It was presented in commemoration of World Aids Day. His point of view was questioned almost immediately, and in response to the request for clarification, Mr. Geweint replied with,
The response to this was almost immediate, coming from another commenter, who stated,
What followed was a rather heated and lengthily discussion. Part of this discussion included the topic of viral loads, advancements in treatment, etc. Regarding viral loads, Communist offered the following,
Being a skeptic, I checked with a few sources on this, and while I had found a few sites that offered statistical probabilities, the aids.gov website stated the obvious:
“But remember, even if you have a low viral load, you can still transmit HIV to your sex partner.”
There is, no doubt, an unwarranted stigma toward people with HIV. LGBT activists still have a long way to go to assuage the fears that many people have toward those who are HIV positive. There is a lot of truly hateful commentary out there that is directed toward the HIV+ community, along with unfounded fears and much information as to how HIV is contracted and spread. There is also a lot of ignorance regarding treatment, containment and interacting with the HIV+.
I am not without practical experience in this matter. My brother-in-law died from the complications of AIDS back when there was even less known about the disease. He was not just my brother-in-law, but my friend, as well. In fact, I had introduced him to my sister. Having to take this journey with him and my sister warranted that I had to learn a lot about HIV, AIDS and the related symptoms thereof. As well, it was quite some time before we were sure that my sister and my niece, with whom my sister was pregnant with when my brother-in-law was diagnosed were not infected.
My education on the subject did not stop at his death. It continues to this day, and plays a large role in my work as an activist. I am dismayed that almost twenty years later, much of the same ignorance is still pervasive.
Regarding criminal liability, there are laws allowing for being convicted of the criminal transmission of HIV if you cause someone be infected intentionally and/or knowingly. If you have been diagnosed with HIV and then have sex with someone without telling them you are HIV+, can be convicted if that person becomes infected. To be convicted, a prosecutor has to prove that the HIV+ person knew their status.
In the United States, some states have laws that do not allow for prosecution as long as those who are infected tell their potential partners that they are HIV+ and consent is given. Other states don’t have an informed consent exception. This means that the HIV+ individual can be convicted of the criminal transmission of an STD whether or not their partner knows and consents.
The penalties for this crime include, but are not limited to prison, fines, restitution, probation and being registered as a sex offender.
Back On Point…
So, to get back to the issue of responsibility of consent, I put forth these two questions:
- Who has the responsibility regarding informed consent, the infected partner or the uninfected partner?
- Is it discriminatory against the HIV+ to be required to inform their partner(s) of their HIV status?
What say ye?