Homosexually Active Men’s Views on Criminal Prosecutions for HIV Transmission are Related to HIV Prevention Need, Catherine Dodds, AIDS Care (2008)

Research and Journal Articles

Drawing data from the Gay Men's Sex Survey 2006, this article represents an analysis of the responses of gay men in the United Kingdom to HIV criminalization laws. Of the 8,252 respondents, over half agreed that prosecution of reckless HIV transmission was a good idea, about a quarter of the respondents were unsure of their position, and about 18% were against such laws.

When asked for the reasoning behind their views, most men cited issues of personal responsibility to prevent HIV transmission. This was primarily divided into three categories of "responsibility" answers: 1) people diagnosed with HIV have the most responsibility, 2) there is shared responsibility by sexual partners or 3) there is exclusive responsibility of those who are HIV negative or unsure of their HIV status. About two-thirds of the respondents focused on the responsibility of HIV positive men, with the rest divided approximately evenly between the other two categories. Three-fifths of the respondents who focused on the HIV positive partner stated that people with a positive diagnose of HIV should always disclose their status to their partners prior to sex. Nearly all the people with this view thought that imprisonment for reckless transmission was a good idea.

Those who regarded the responsibility of avoiding HIV exposure differently, however, had mixed views about the nature of prosecution. Those who felt that prosecution for reckless HIV transmission was wrong and those unsure about their position were equally likely to comment on the shared nature of responsibility or the individual responsibility on the HIV negative partner.

A history of HIV testing or HIV status also had an effect on the responses. Of the survey participants who had HIV, 70% felt the responsibility rested on either the negative partner or both partners equally. Of men who never were tested for HIV, two-thirds placed the responsibility exclusively on the positive partner.

Survey participants' own expectations of disclosure were relevant to their responses. For instance, 86% of men who support imprisonment also expect a potential sex partner to disclose their HIV status. The number falls to 70% with regards to men who are unsure, and only 50% of those who were against imprisonment expected such disclosure.

These responses highlight, in part, the rate at which many men take for granted that their partner will disclose their HIV status to them, and how criminalization laws support these views instead of encouraging greater caution in such assumptions.