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Human Immunodeficiency Virus - Criminalization As A Health Measure

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawHuman Immunodeficiency Virus - Criminalization As A Health Measure, Sex And Needle Sharing As Crime, The Behavioral Impact Of Criminalization

Criminalization as a health measure

The public health case for criminalization is weak. Criminal law can be an effective tool of HIV prevention only if it incapacitates or deters the people whose behavior is responsible for a significant proportion of new cases, but criminalization stumbles almost immediately on a paradox. The behavior most widely accepted as wrong—deliberately using HIV as a tool to harm or terrorize another—is too rare to influence the epidemic, whereas the behavior most responsible for spreading the virus—voluntary sex and needle sharing—is difficult and controversial to prohibit. Both the impetus for and opposition to criminalization reflect profound social differences over the acceptability of homosexuality and drug use, and the clash of values those differences entail.

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