Florida counties use HIV laws to punish sex workers
July 30 2004 12:00 AM ET
Several counties in Florida have begun charging all arrested sex workers determined to be HIV-positive with attempted transmission of HIV, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, in an effort to crack down on prostitution, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. Assistant state attorney Uriel Neto says any Florida resident who knows he or she is HIV-positive and engages in unprotected sex can be charged with the felony, but until now the law was rarely enforced. However, local law enforcement officials have begun using the law to crack down on HIV-positive sex workers in an effort to curb prostitution in the state. "Obviously, in a case like this you have to prove the person knew or should have known [they have HIV], and doing so could be a major stumbling block," assistant state attorney Ed Walsh told the Sun-Sentinel. Some police departments have begun asking all arrested sex workers a series of questions aimed at determining if they are HIV-positive, including asking them if they take any antiretroviral drugs or if they've ever shared injection-drug paraphernalia.