The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes Monday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that calls upon states to eliminate or reform their antiquated HIV criminalization laws, which criminalize conduct by HIV-positive individuals that would be legal if they were not HIV-positive or did not know their status. The DOJ’s guidelines, “Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors,” explain how these laws are contrary to the science of HIV today and how these laws harm individuals and public health by reinforcing HIV stigma.
Over the decades, states have enacted or used existing criminal laws and policies, in the name of public health and safety, to effectively criminalize and silence persons living with HIV/AIDS. For example, state laws have been used to prosecute persons living with HIV when they failed to inform consensual sexual partners of their status—regardless of the actual risks involved or the precautions taken. In other examples, individuals have faced serious criminal charges based on actions like spitting that have no real risk of transmitting the virus.