4 Stories: The Effects of HIV Criminalization on Sex and Intimacy
BY Todd Heywood
April 01 2013 4:30 AM ET
“As a trans woman living with HIV, I’m always worried that if I don’t disclose to my partner before we even approach the bedroom that they’ll turn around and charge me with a crime. When you have to tell a potential partner that you’re trans and poz, there’s always a fear that they will use that information to make your life hell. I try to always disclose online so that there’s a record of them knowing. That way no one can ever come back and claim I didn’t tell them before we hooked up. The fear and danger of being sent to jail just for having sex is strong enough that many times, I won’t even bother trying if I think someone is litigious.” Dee Borego, 29, Boston
“HIV criminalization adds to my paranoia of state surveillance and the fear of arrest that I already live in as a young queer Muslim man of color. I cannot afford to trust the police or the state like most do. Although I try my best to always disclose my status to my sexual partners, I am not perfect, and sometimes my shame has gotten the best of me. I’m blessed to be in a committed and loving monogamous relationship today, but I never know when some trick from my past might decide to use my status against me. But that fear and paranoia does not cripple me, and I choose to navigate the world around me accordingly: out and proud as a person living with HIV and fighting for decriminalization and racial justice. Until HIV is decriminalized, state-sanctioned stigma will continue to perpetuate this deadly epidemic and the mass imprisonment of people of color in the United States.” Hussain Turk, 24, Kalamazoo, Mich.
“Living in a state under HIV criminalization laws impacts my life and others living with HIV simply by virtue of the fact that we constantly live under the fear of spurious accusations of nondisclosure and intentional transmission. Who is to say, in a court of law, how and when I have disclosed to my partners my HIV status? So I’m forced to live under the fear of litigation and imprisonment. I protect from prosecution by disclosing my status each and every time, though without witnesses to my disclosure I worry that it would be impossible to prove in court.” Ian Finkenbinder, 30, Seattle
“For me, it makes me real, real cautious — somewhat scared. I come from the old school where you don’t have to disclose to everyone you lay down with, but you got to have a barrier of protection.… It’s like living like a cat on a hot tin roof. It’s a haunting thought. It’s always a threat, always a hint of damn, you’re never comfortable.” Jaci Adams, 55-year-old transgender woman, Philadelphia