Last Friday, the man above was tried for a public health violation. Twenty-seven year old John Conway Hart of Raleigh, NC is accused of having sex with someone and not disclosing his HIV status. If found guilty he will face up to four months in prison and he will be subjected to a medical quarantine. The numbers of black gay men diagnosed with HIV continues to rise. Many are arguing that the potential for prosecution will deter many men from getting tested because knowledge that they are positive could lead to a criminal prosecution but ignorance of your status leaves you in the clear.
I'm personally really torn on this issue. I have many friends that are positive and I know how difficult it is to disclose. The social stigma associate with being positive has not disappeared. Telling your potential sex partner that you have HIV could send him/ her screaming and running toward the door.
So how can we condemn the positive person that does not want to disclose his HIV status. The fear of rejection is powerful and until you've walked in the shoes of a positive person you cannot judge him.
However, on the other hand, when a person repeatedly hooks up for sex and lies about his HIV status (when he knows that he is positive) and he chooses to not use condoms (putting his partner at risk for cero-conversion), how can I not see this person as a predator.
I must preface my opinion with this, I have a bit of a bias when it comes to this issue. I have a very close friend that fell victim to this. He and a person that will remain nameless started dating. They became very serious and would eventually move in with each other. They decided that they would build a loving, trusting, monogamous relationship. My friend got tested for HIV because he was ready to move toward a relationship that did not include condoms.
The person that shall remain nameless shared that he was tested also and that he too was negative. We did not know at the time but this person had been knowingly living with HIV for several years and did not want anyone to know. My friend would become positive as a result of this individual and his web of lies.
And guess what else was happening in this relationship? Unnamed person also had a profile on Adam4Adam, Gay.com and several other men seeking men sites looking for bareback sex. He was claiming that he was HIV negative on these sites. This information would only come to the surface after my friend was diagnosed positive and several individuals from the community came forward and shared that they had had unprotected sex with unnamed person.
My thoughts immediately were that this person should be locked up for all eternity. This man was deliberately trying to infect people. There are no if, ands or buts about it. I am convinced that he wanted to pass the virus on to as many people as he could. Because of him, when I hear stories like this I think "send the bastard to jail!"
I'm aware that these are distinctly different circumstances. Occasionally having sex with someone and not disclosing your HIV status is not the same as seeking out unknowing victims, outright lying about your status and making the decision not to use protection. One stems from fear and discomfort. The other stems from revenge and hatred.
So here is the problem as I see it. Who gets to decide where we draw the line? Who determines when one moves from victim to predator? And when does personal accountability come into account? If we all know how HIV and STDs are transmitted, then how can we really blame others when we become infected?
But those are just my thoughts. How do you feel? Should HIV positive individuals be tried as criminals for having sex without disclosing their status?