Main | Tuesday, September 21, 2010

POLL: Two-Thirds Of American Gay Men Support HIV Transmission Laws

According to a poll published today on, two-thirds of American gay men support laws that make it illegal for HIV-positive people to have unprotected anal sex without disclosing their status. The pollsters recruited 1725 gay men via social network sites.
“Believing that it should be illegal was associated with HIV-negative or unknown status, less education, having a non-gay sexual orientation, living in a state that was perceived as hostile towards GLBT persons, reporting fewer UAI [unprotected anal intercourse] partners…and feeling greater responsibility”, write the authors. Since 2008, at least 30 individuals in the US have been prosecuted for exposing others to HIV. Penalties vary between states and range from a small fine to a lengthy prison sentence. The impact of such laws on HIV prevention efforts are hotly debated. Moreover, there is uncertainty about the attitudes of the communities most affected by HIV about the criminalisation of HIV exposure. Overall, 65% of men believed that it should be illegal for HIV-positive individuals to have unprotected sex without disclosure, 23% thought it should not be illegal and 12% did not know.

Support for criminalisation was highest (79%) among men aged between 18 and 20, and lowest (56%) among those aged 41 to 70. The investigators note that younger gay men were significantly less likely to have been tested for HIV. Separate research has shown that untested men are more likely to adopt a disclosure-based HIV prevention strategy “that gains credibility by transmission laws.” The overwhelming majority (70%) of HIV-negative and untested men (69%) supported legal sanctions, but only 38% of HIV-positive men endorsed criminalisation. “These differences most likely reflect a shift in orientation toward criminal statues on HIV transmission following seroconversion”, comment the investigators. Men with the lowest educational achievements were most likely to support criminalisation (75%), and those with a degree least likely (58%).
Several notable recent cases have put the issue in the spotlight, including the arrest last month of a Canadian man who is accused of having infected two women after not disclosing his status to them. Also last month, German pop star Nadja Benaissa was convicted of "grievous bodily harm" for having sex without disclosure. Some have been arrested for non-disclosure even though no known infections resulted from their actions.

(Tipped by JMG reader Band)

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