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Is lying about
HIV a crime?

Is lying about
HIV a crime?


Australian Michael Neal is a gay man's worst nightmare. He's a sexually promiscuous liar who told partners he was HIV-negative when he knew he wasn't. In some tragic instances, Neal even persuaded his partners to have unprotected sex with him. Now some of those men are HIV-positive.

Melbourne police have charged Neal with endangering public safety, but we believe going through with this prosecution would set a perilous precedent. Of course it's wrong to fabricate a story about your HIV status, much less to knowingly expose people to the virus. But it's also wrong to criminalize people for doing either.

There is a criminal case to be made if it can be proved a person intended to harm a sex partner by infecting them with HIV. Laws against attempted murder already exist. But prosecuting lying is not only impractical but dangerous. If we begin jailing lotharios for simply misrepresenting their HIV status, do we draw the line at cancer-causing HPV, syphilis--the flu? If a straight woman lies about being on birth control and ends up pregnant, is she a crook? There's no bottom to this slippery slope.

Protecting yourself from HIV is a matter of personal responsibility. It's a matter that should be outside the jurisdiction of the criminal courts--except, of course, in matters of rape or assault. In cases of consensual sex, if we rely on words (which often turn out to be untrue) rather than facts (condoms protect you from HIV), we're complicit in what happens to our bodies. Not to mention that what goes on between two consenting adults should not be fodder for government control. As LGBT Americans we know this better than anyone--and we also know the government doesn't always act in our best interests.

Lying just to get laid is evil, but if you have any concern about HIV infection and you haven't seen your partner's antibody test results with your own eyes, it is your responsibility to protect yourself. We risk our lives when we sleep with someone. That's the sad truth. At that moment of decision when we weigh risk and pleasure, we have a choice to defend our lives or not. That choice--coupled with the knowledge we've been given over the past 25 years--gives us power. Relying on the government to protect you by criminalizing bad boyfriends is a surrender of that power. And we will never be an advocate for that.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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