Criminalization of HIV

In the last 30 years, HIV has become an international pandemic. Exacerbating the crisis is a trend of transforming HIV from a public health problem to a criminal justice issue.

The medical reality is that HIV is difficult to transmit, that precautions effectively reduce transmission risk, and that with access to treatment, HIV is a chronic, manageable condition, not a death sentence.

In the United States, criminal law has been used to target people with HIV. Thirty-four states have statutes criminalizing perceived exposure to HIV. Prosecutions have involved allegations of non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission of HIV. The legal standards in HIV criminalization cases involve degrees of intent, harm, and proportion.

The HIV criminalization laws in New Jersey are in great need of reform. Consensual sex between adults with a condom can result in a prison sentence and a minor bite wound may be charged as attempted murder.

Click here for a memo outlining criminal responses to HIV in New Jersey.