Are You HIV Positive? You May Not Be Entitled To As Much Privacy As You Think


Charlie Sheen is certainly no stranger to the news, but the latest stories on him have taken a dark turn—the actor is facing a criminal investigation for intentionally hiding his HIV-positive status from a former lover. A lot of people may be reluctant to discuss their health, especially if they have a serious disease, like HIV, but keeping a secret like that can absolutely be criminal. If you're HIV positive, this is what you should know.

There may or may not be specific laws in your state.

While not every state has specific laws on the books that address the criminalization of HIV patients for knowingly withholding information about their medical status from others, the majority do. More than 30 states have actively prosecuted people under such laws. 

Even in the absence of HIV-specific laws, you can be prosecuted under ordinary assault and battery laws, which can be stretched to cover the situation, if the prosecution feels that the situation warrants it.

You can be punished for even low-risk behavior.

Some of the existing laws only criminalize behaviors like knowingly participating in intercourse with someone who is uninformed about your HIV status or intentionally trying to infect someone with the disease. Others criminalize even low-risk behaviors.

For example, the law in Arkansas makes it a crime to seek even minor medical care without informing the physician that you are HIV positive, even if there is no likelihood that you're going to transmit the disease. That means that if you break a finger, you could be convicted of a crime for not telling the doctor that put the splint on for you that you're HIV positive. 

Because many of the laws were enacted prior to a clear understanding of how the HIV virus can be transmitted, you can be prosecuted for exposing someone to HIV for heat-of-the-moment type actions, like spitting or scratching, even though the CDC says that the virus can't be transmitted that way.

A conviction can put you on the sex-offender registry.

Aside from prison time or long-term probation, a conviction on any charge related to exposing another person to HIV status can result in your name being added to the sex offender registry for life. Once that happens, the government has the right to track your movements and you may be prohibited from contact with minors, even those in your own family. 

In addition, your status as a sex offender will be public information—available to any employer who does a background check and to neighbors who keep watch to see if anyone on the rolls is living in their community. Your ability to perform certain jobs, like teaching or driving a school bus, would be permanently curtailed.

If you have HIV, it's very important that you don't assume that you understand how the laws in your state are applied to different situations in your life. If you have any questions, or believe that you could face charges, contact a criminal lawyer or firm such as Alexander & Associates, P.C. to obtain more information.


13 April 2016

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