June #113 : Legal Eye - by Catherine Hanssens

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Fighting Femmes

The amfAR's new clothes

Warm Reception

White Smoke In Our Eyes

Hepatitis on the Block

High On Adherence

A Positive Campaign

Founder's Letter

Earthwatch: Generic Meds

On The March!

MILESTONES

THE PLOTS SICKEN

POZ Picks Gay Pride

Medi - Mess

How to Treat "Untreatable" HIV

Read It Or Weep

Live and Let Die?

Did Common Just Come Out?

Legal Eye

Quick Study

Why.....

Book nook

Mailbox

When Push Comes To Drag



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


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June 2005

Legal Eye

by Catherine Hanssens

An HIV positive friend is having unprotected sex without disclosing to partners. Do I have a legal or moral obligation to stop him? 
—Is Intervention Divine?


Dear Divine—
You have no legal obligation to control your friend’s conduct or warn others of the danger to which they are exposed. Even if your state deems HIV exposure a crime, the law doesn’t deputize you to report it. Any duty to warn third persons applies only to special legal relationships (e.g., doctor-patient).

Although state law varies, it’s doubtful you’d be successfully sued for disclosing your friend’s status to known partners. The long-term impact of partner notification, however, is unclear; even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which
promotes it, has no studies showing it prevents HIV’s spread.

Your moral obligation? I’m not an ethicist, but ultimately condoms, not disclosures, interrupt transmission. Outing your friend or getting him jailed may halt his current trysts, but it won’t stop the cause of most transmissions: avoiding condoms and hinging self-protection on whether a partner claims to be negative. All parties to unprotected sex are responsible for spreading HIV.

I hope you’ll urge your friend to change his unsafe ways, but I don’t buy loaded-gun analogies. Only superheroes can stop fired bullets; every person can protect himself against HIV. Condoms are a drag; relationships have power imbalances; and user-controlled prevention methods (e.g., microbicides) are sorely needed. But don’t we have a responsibility to use and promote condoms—in schools, jails, bedrooms and backrooms? That, plus accurate sex ed and treatment for the drug abuse and self-hate that fuel dangerous behavior may be a tall order, but what’s the alternative?

Catherine Hanssens, JD, founded the Center for HIV Law and Policy. Her column offers general guidance and shouldn’t substitute for a lawyer’s counsel. Send your own legal queries to law@poz.com.




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