- May 18, 2015
Last week, a jury in suburban St. Louis delivered a stunningly draconian conviction and sentence against 23-year-old Michael Johnson. Prosecutors charged Johnson with two counts of “recklessly infecting another with HIV,” three counts of “attempting to infect someone with HIV,” and one count of “recklessly exposing someone to HIV.” The jury delivered a conviction on all counts, except for one charge of “recklessly infecting someone with HIV.” The jury recommended a 30 year prison sentence, although he could face even longer in prison for the lesser charges.
Laws criminalizing the behaviors with near-zero risk for HIV transmission and that fail to account for effective HIV prevention measures -- like condom use and PrEP -- are not just misguided, they are deadly.
HRC’s own State of Equality Index tracked 26 states in 2014 that criminalize behaviors that carry a low or negligible risk of HIV transmission. These laws have little to no basis in modern science and fail to reflect what researchers do know about preventing HIV.
Testing is critical to connecting people with the treatment they need and to preventing future transmission. However, laws criminalizing people living with HIV -- like the law in Missouri -- serve as a chilling deterrent to testing. The White House Office of National AIDS Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization have all expressed concerns about laws criminalizing HIV transmission .
Johnson will be formally sentenced in July.
There are many roads to preventing the spread of HIV. None of them begin with turning patients into criminals
To read more about HRC's work on HIV criminalization visit: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/in-the-face-of-fear-the-criminalization-of-hiv-transmission