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Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Criminalization As A Health Measure, Sex And Needle Sharing As Crime, The Behavioral Impact Of Criminalization

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is usually spread unintentionally, but in the course of sexual or drug-using conduct that is intentional. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, criminal law has been proposed, and sporadically deployed, as a means of addressing conduct that exposes others to, or actually infects them with, HIV. This entry surveys the practical, legal, and social issues that arise in the "criminalization" of a public health threat.

The case for criminalizing conduct that spreads HIV is straightforward. People who deliberately or recklessly expose others to or actually infect others with HIV are said to deserve punishment. Such punishment might have the added benefit of deterring others from creating the same risks. Criminal laws certainly express society's disapproval of the conduct, which may provide additional deterrence through social influence. In practice, however, the issue is much more complicated.


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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law