Criminalizationof Knowlingly Transmitting AIDSBrief History of AIDS and the Criminalizationof Knowingly Transmitting ItAcquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus was discoverdindependently in France in 1983 and in the United States in 1984. In theUnited 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: Fromsexual contact without protection, from the mixing of ones blood with infectedblood, and from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus.
Infection canoccur 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 spreadingAIDS has been a big issue recently, and still remains so. As of September,1991, legislation criminalizing AIDS transmission has been passed in 24states.
Among these states are California, Idaho, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan,and South Carolina. Under these current laws, it is a crime to knowinglytransmit the virus through sex, sharing needles, donating infected blood,organs, or skin tissue.The first person to go to court under theselaws in Michigan was Jeffrey Hanlon. Hanlon was a gay man who infectedanother man from Michigan while he was in New York. The American CivilLiberties Union, who agreed to take the case, agrued that the AIDS disclosurelaw is unconstitutional. Privacy of those with AIDS is what they were worriedabout.
Opponents argued that “they’re those with AIDS killing people.It’s like rape.” The maximum sentence Hanlon could have recieved was fouryears in prison and a $2000 fine.In addition, under the current New YorkState law, which dates back well before June, 1987, the knowing transmissionof a venerial disease is a felony. However, at that time, and currently,AIDS was not classified as a venerial disease.Interviews Concerning the IssueMost people believe that the willful transmissionof AIDS to others it virtually murder. I have interviewed **name** and**name**.
Both of them feel that intentionally passing AIDS on to anotherperson 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 knowinglytransmits AIDS to another person, it’s like committing murder. He or sheshould be punished to the full extent of the law.”In addition to personal interviews, I havefound the opinions of Governor Cuomo and former President Ronald Reagan.On June 1, 1987, Cuomo revealed that statelawmakers would consider making the transmission of AIDS a crime. He wasquoted at the time as saying:”If you know you have AIDS and you passit on to someone who is not aware, that should be regarded as a very seriousoffense. I’m not talking about sins and morality; I’m talking about a sinagainst the community, a crime.
We should look into that.” However, nothingwas proposed at the time.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 carriersof the disease; no comment concerning the criminalization of the transmissionof AIDS was made.Reasons for the Criminalization of KnowinglyTransmitting AIDSThere are not many reasons for the criminalizationof knowingly transmitting AIDS. However, they are very convincing arguments.
The first and one of the most convincingarguments 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 willnot. The only way that AIDS will remain an epidemic is if it is continuallyspread. This is because those with AIDS will in most cases die rather quicklyof an AIDS related disease. If they do not spread it, then the number ofpeople with the virus will decline steadily without fail.Another reason is that someone who is intentionallytransmitting the disease is doing it for their own satisfaction and/orto hurt others.
Such is the case with a drug pusher. Many magazine articleshave made reference to the analogy “a drug pusher is the same as an AIDSpusher.” Their argument is that if drug pushers are treated as if theycommit criminal acts, then so should the supposed ‘AIDS’ pushers.The Constitutional argument involoved isalso a moral one. By transmitting the virus willingly one is usurping onothers’ rights to life and happiness. It is also seen as wrong by the public.In effect, it is murder in the second or third degree. If it is done intentionally,it is murder in the first degree.
Obviously this should be illegal andthose who break the proposed laws should be prosecuted as if they committeda crime.Another reason to criminalize the transmissionof AIDS is because the money from fines incurred may be put towards researchand development of cures, as well as education and prevention programs.This will help stop the problem and also speed up the process of findinga cure or immunization for AIDS.Reasons Against the Criminalization ofKnowingly Transmitting AIDSThere are many more reasons against thecriminalization of willingly transmitting AIDS to others. However, theseare based not on morals but on facts and practicality.Criminalizing AIDS would divert millionsof dollars to legal fees that could be better spent on AIDS programs suchas prevention, education, and research and development in terms of findinga cure. “Criminalization is a short cut taken when not enough energy isgiven to prevention.
” Instead of helping erradicate the epidemic, criminalizationwould instill more fear among the people living with HIV. “It would createa witch hunt atmosphere,” stated William Ramirz, an attorney for a HIVpositive client. Criminalizing AIDS transmission would open doors for peopleto knowingly accuse others they know that have it just to get rid of them.
The law would also be practically impossibleto enforce. In some cases, intent would have to be proven. However, itis usually impossible to prove intent since it is not possible to go “inside”the minds of others to know what they were thinking in their moment ofpassion, whether it be intercourse or drug use.
Even the United States Health Departmentopposes criminalization. They fear that it would scare people from reportingthat they have AIDS. This is because those that do report it may be accusedof committing a crime sometime in the future.My Position and ConclusionI have mixed feelings on whether or notthe transmission of AIDS should be a criminal act. I feel that it is morallywrong, and in effect, those who do it are committing murder. There is definitelya valid argument there. However, due to the validity of the arguments againstthe criminalization of passing AIDS on to others, I am partial to bothsides.
I agree that it would divert millions of dollars that could be putto better use in research and other programs. I also agree that it wouldbe legally and scientifically impossible to prove intent.I feel that because of these conflictingideas that I believe, the best way to resolve the issue would be to maketransmitting the virus a criminal act, but not subject to jail time. Insteadof wasting the taxpayers money on giving free medical care and room andboard to inmates, it should be put towards finding a cure for AIDS. Insteadof a jail term, those who transmit the disease should be fined very heavilyso as to discourage them from repeating the offense. The money accruedfrom the fine should then be used for research and other related programs,including helping those that are infected.
All in all, AIDS is an epidemic that isa part of the nineties. It is scary, but it must be dealt with. If theproper precautions are taken, then eventually it will be taken care ofin the right way. However, there will unfortunately always be those thathave malice towards society and insist upon spreading their pain and suffering.