New Jersey’s HIV Exposure Law and the HIV-Related Attitudes, Beliefs, and Sexual and Seropositive Status Disclosure Behaviors of Persons Living with HIV. Galletly et al., Amer. J. Pub. Health, e1-e6 (September 2012)

Research and Journal Articles

Highlights the results of a research study examining whether HIV-positive individuals' awareness of the New Jersey law requiring disclosure of HIV status prior to sex had any impact on their behavior and compliance with the law. The study relied on convenience sampling and utilized anonymous written surveys collected in 2010.

Researchers found that awareness of the law had little if any effect on whether participants disclosed their status. Despite this finding, compliance with the law was high, with 83 percent of participants reporting having been compliant within the past year. Certain variables were significantly associated with participants' compliance with the law, including: older age, female gender, self-identification as heterosexual, low educational attainment, and involvement in a marriage or long-term relationship. Interestingly, awareness of New Jersey's law had no impact on compliance, nor on whether participants had fewer sexual partners or engaged in safer sex more often than did those participants unaware of the law.

In addition, the researchers found that participants who were unaware of the law were less comfortable with disclosing their status, internalized more HIV-related stigma, and perceived more societal hostility toward people living with HIV than did those who were aware of the law.

Such findings indicate that the law itself may have minimal impact on the disclosure behavior of people with HIV, and is not an effective structural HIV prevention intervention. The researchers posit that internalized normative values likely guide disclosure, irrespective of the law. As a result, the authors argue that interventions designed "to increase comfort with seropositive status disclosure may be a better way to achieve the desired behaviors."