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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

US: South Dakota makes 'HIV criminals' sex offenders, too

The South Dakota Senate voted unanimously last Thursday to register as sex offenders people who have already been convicted of the state law against 'intentional' HIV exposure/transmission.

This, according to writer Thomas Heald in a blog published before the vote, would "add the punishment of sex offender status, thus adding a 'Scarlet Letter' to their conviction, which would add restrictions on where they could live (1000 feet of schools churches, etc.), and allow neighborhood searching and registration so that families can "protect themselves" and/or unofficially harass the offender."

The Act (SB65) to define intentional exposure to HIV infection by sexual intercourse as a sex crime subject to registry as a sex offender' has now amended its sex offender law (§ 22-24B-1) by adding the following clause: "Intentional exposure to HIV infection as set forth in subdivision § 22-18-31 South Dakota Codified Laws."

§ 22-18-31 is 'intentional exposure to HIV infection', a Class 3 felony (punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine) which criminalises "any person who, knowing himself or herself to be infected with HIV, intentionally exposes another person to infection by...engaging in sexual intercourse or other intimate physical contact with another person."

The report, from the Associated Press/Rapid City Journal, gets its facts wrong, and says the law is about "intentionally infecting sex partners". Sadly, this has been repeated in other reports, including those at

Much, much worse, of course, is the ignorance of South Dakota's lawmakers, including Senator Sandy Jerstad – author of this latest Act – who has conflated HIV exposure with HIV infection and thinks that people exposed to HIV will "have to take HIV tests for years (although a negative antibody test six months after exposure is enough to know that HIV infection has not taken place) and they live with the consequences of this crime for the rest of their lives."

The latter is possibly true – if someone has been found guilty of this 'crime' through a fair trial – but surely this is true only if the 'victim' has become HIV-positive. Or is she suggesting that simply having sex with someone who is HIV-positive results in life long trauma?

The full Associated Press/Rapid City Journal report is below.

Senate approves HIV legislation

By The Associated Press

PIERRE -- The South Dakota Senate decided Thursday that people who are convicted of intentionally infecting sex partners with the AIDS virus should have to register as sex offenders after release from prison.

Sen. Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, said that would warn the public about the danger those people present.

"There'll always be a certain small portion of our population who set out to intentionally harm others by committing sex crimes," she said.

Two people in the state have been convicted of intentionally infecting others with HIV, Jerstad said.

She said the maximum prison term for the crime is 15 years in prison, but the victims must face the fear that they'll get AIDS.

"Those victims will have to take HIV tests for years, and they live with the consequences of this crime for the rest of their lives," Jerstad said.

SB65 cleared the Senate 34-0, sending the legislation to the House.



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