Criminalization Of Knowlingly Transmitting AIDS

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Criminalization of Knowlingly Transmitting AIDS


Brief History of AIDS and the Criminalization of Knowingly Transmitting It

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus was discoverd independently in France in 1983 and in the United States in 1984. In the United States, it was initially identified in 1981. In 1986, a second virus, now called HIV-2, was also discovered in Africa. HIV-2 also causes AIDS.

AIDS is transmitted in three ways: From sexual contact without protection, from the mixing of ones blood with infected blood, and from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection can occur from blood transfusions of infected blood, or sharing 'dirty' needles. (Needles already used, in this case, by a HIV positive person.)

The criminalization of intentionally spreading AIDS has been a big issue recently, and still remains so. As of September, 1991, legislation criminalizing AIDS transmission has been passed in 24 states. Among these states are California, Idaho, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, and South Carolina. Under these current laws, it is a crime to knowingly transmit the virus through sex, sharing needles, donating infected blood, organs, or skin tissue.

The first person to go to court under these laws in Michigan was Jeffrey Hanlon. Hanlon was a gay man who infected another man from Michigan while he was in New York. The American Civil Liberties Union, who agreed to take the case, agrued that the AIDS disclosure law is unconstitutional. Privacy of those with AIDS is what they were worried about. Opponents argued that "they're [those with AIDS] killing people. It's like rape." The maximum sentence Hanlon could have recieved was four years in prison and a $2000 fine.

In addition, under the current New York State law, which dates back well before June, 1987, the knowing transmission of a venerial disease is a felony. However, at that time, and currently, AIDS was not classified as a venerial disease.

Interviews Concerning the Issue

Most people believe that the willful transmission of AIDS to others it virtually murder. I have interviewed **name** and **name**. Both of them feel that intentionally passing AIDS on to another person is murder. The recipient of the virus will, in almost every case, die rather quickly of an AIDS related disease.

**name** feels that "if someone knowingly transmits AIDS to another person, it's like committing murder. He or she should be punished to the full extent of the law."

In addition to personal interviews, I have found the opinions of Governor Cuomo and former President Ronald Reagan.

On June 1, 1987, Cuomo revealed that state lawmakers would consider making the transmission of AIDS a crime. He was quoted at the time as saying:

"If you know you have AIDS and you pass it on to someone who is not aware, that should be regarded as a very serious offense. I'm not talking about sins and morality; I'm talking about a sin against the community, a crime. We should look into that." However, nothing was proposed at the time.

Former President Ronald Reagan called for "routine" AIDS testing of prisoners, marriage license applicants, immigrants, and possibly some hospital patients. His purpose was only to identify carriers of the disease; no comment concerning the criminalization of the transmission of AIDS was made.

Reasons for the Criminalization of Knowingly Transmitting AIDS

There are not many reasons for the criminalization of knowingly transmitting AIDS. However, they are very convincing arguments.

The first and one of the most convincing arguments is because it will help stop the propogation of the virus. Ideally, if people know that it is a crime to transmit the virus, then they will not. The only way that AIDS will remain an epidemic is if it is continually spread. This is because those with AIDS will in most cases die rather quickly of an AIDS related disease. If they do not spread it, then the number of people with the virus will decline steadily without fail.

Another reason is that someone who is intentionally transmitting the disease is doing it for their own satisfaction and/or to hurt others. Such is the case with a drug pusher. Many magazine articles have made reference to the analogy "a drug pusher is the same as an AIDS pusher." Their argument is that if drug pushers are

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