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Friday, 20 August 2010

US: Michigan woman gets 11 months for non-disclosure

A 54-year-old woman has been sentenced to 11 months in prison to failing to inform her male sex partner that she was HIV positive under Michigan's disclosure laws.

Todd Heywood of the Michigan Messenger covers the case in two reports covering her March arrest and her sentencing following her 'no contest' plea.

She is accused of failing to tell a 45-year-old Traverse City man that she was HIV-positive before engaging in sex with him. Police say she had sex with him six times June 2009 and January [2010]... [She] told the court she had recently moved to Michigan, and owned nothing, “just my clothes.”... She told the court she was a recovering cocaine and alcohol addict, and had moved to Michigan from Florida.... 
[Earlier this week, she] pleaded no contest to failing to inform her male sex partner that she was HIV positive. She has been sentenced to 11 months in jail, inpatient drug rehabilitation and five years of probation by an Isabella County Circuit Court Judge. While the woman’s viral load and other factors determining the infectiousness of her virus were not disclosed, or discussed, Judge Mark Duthie called her behavior “reckless and dangerous,” reports the Mt. Pleasant Sun.... 
She has pleaded no contest on similar charges in Clare county stemming from the same relationship with the Traverse City man. She is expected to be sentenced in that case next month. The woman’s male partner did not attend the Isabella County sentencing of the woman. “He’s embarrassed to have his name on the charge,” Chief Assistant Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully told the Sun.
 Todd also very helpully highlights myriad problems with Michigan law as it currently stands.
Michigan disclosure law is considered “overly broad,” and “open for abuse” by experts. Under the law, before any penetration “however slight” occurs, an HIV-positive person must disclose their HIV status to a partner. The law does not criminalize the sharing of needles, which is a well known mode of transmission for HIV, however, it does criminalize sex toy use without a disclosure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has never identified a case of HIV where the virus was transmitted by a sex toy.

Michigan is one of 32 states with an HIV-specific criminal law. Most of the laws were passed in the late 80s and early 90s, before the discovery of powerful anti-retroviral medications which dramatically decrease the progression of HIV infection. In July, President Barack Obama issued the nation’s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and part of the strategy includes reviewing and repealing the HIV-specific criminal laws because “the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment.”

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