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Tuesday 27 January 2009

UK: Most gay men support criminal HIV transmission prosecutions

A startling and important new report from Sigma Research, entitled Sexually charged: the views of gay and bisexual men on criminal prosecutions for sexual HIV transmission has found that the majority of more than 8000 gay men surveyed in 2006 during the annual Gay Men’s Sex Survey support prosecutions for 'reckless' HIV transmission.

An excellent summary of the report's findings, Ignorance and stigma provide foundation for gay men's support of criminalisation of HIV transmission by Michael Carter, can be read at

The report's lead author, Catherine Dodds, reported part of these findings at the 2008 CHAPS conference, and I had the honour of joining her on stage to discuss how the gay community might be able to respond to them. A report of our presentations was published in the July 2008 edition of THT's Issue magazine.

Update: 17th March. In order to respond to a comment I'm uploading a table from the report showing who exactly supports prosecutions by HIV testing history.

As you can see, although 'only' 49.4% of HIV-positive gay men do not agree with prosecutions, a further 31% are not sure, leaving a significant minority (19.6%) in favour of prosecutions. This compares with 56.3% of HIV-negative gay men and 63.5% of untested gay men who support criminal prosecutions.


Mark said...

Just as interesting is the fact that only a minority of HIV-positive gay men oppose criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission. Michael Carter glossed over that fact in his desperation to claim that ignorance of HIV was behind support for criminal prosecutions.

Personally - as an HIV-positive gay man - whilst I found the report itself very good and informative, I found Michael Carter's summary both insulting and offensive top the point where I am unlikely to ever respect his opinion on anything in the future.

Edwin J Bernard said...

Actually almost 50% oppose prosecutions, and a further 31% are not sure whether it is a good idea to imprison people who know they have HIV if they pass it to a sexual partner who do not know they have it.

So, although it may be technically true that "only a minority" (i.e. 49.4%) of HIV-positive men "oppose prosecutions" this does not mean that the majority support them. So I don't agree that Michael Carter "glossed over" that "fact".

I have also read the report and stand by my comment that the summary is "excellent". Furthermore, I have spoken with one of the report's authors who agrees that Michael Carter wrote an excellent summary, that characterised their main findings. In fact, Sigma link to the report on its website.

You are entitled not to agree with the idea that ignorance and stigma are the galvanising forces behind support for prosecutions, but I don't think that you are right.

Edwin Cameron argues, in his book, 'Witness to AIDS' that one of the greatest challenges we face is the internalised stigma people living with HIV have about ourselves.

We often have a very hard time taking responsibility for our infection. I'm not talking about blame, but about individual personal responsibility for our own health, and choices.

For the minority of HIV-positive men who do support prosecutions, this is a classic 'othering' response.

Furthermore, having worked with Michael Carter at NAM for more than seven years, I have the utmost respect for his writing and his opinions.

Mark said...


There we go again with that same old red herring. If you don't agree with the more rabid extreme of activists, then there can only be one conclusion: you must be riddled with internalised issues. Perhaps it is the activists who are so riddled with anger that they have to see stigma in everything.

No-one said that a majority supported prosecutions, so the fact remains that what I said was 100% correct and that it was a truth that was too inconvenient for the likes of you and Michael Carter.


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