The Criminalization of Knowingly Transmitting AIDS
Table of Contents
Brief history of AIDS and the criminalization of knowingly
Interviews concerning the issue............................4
Reasons for the criminalization of knowingly transmitting
Reasons against the criminalization of knowingly
My position and conclusion.................................8
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
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
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
"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
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 treated as if they commit criminal