A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
If you’re tested for HIV, you’ll know your status and by knowing if you are HIV positive, you can change your sex life to protect others. In short; know it, bag it. So goes the logical of many contemporary safe sex programmes.
It’s for this reason that a report out from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is all the more explosive. Fifty percent of new HIV infections in Lancaster County are caused by persons who already know they have the disease, according to Ken Culton, a nurse consultant with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the breakdown of how male and females become infected varies, Kirchner said. Eighty-five percent of women with HIV acquired it via heterosexual sex with an infected partner, and 15 percent from IV drug use.
Men having sex with other men accounts for 74 percent of males with HIV infection, heterosexual sex for 14 percent, IV drug use for 8 percent, and the rest from a combination or unknown reasons. Around 21 percent of the estimated 1.2 million HIV-infected persons in the U.S. still aren’t aware they have the disease.
Let’s also not forget the economics of HIV/AIDS. The report also includes the statistic that avoiding just one HIV infection saves an estimated $365,000 in medical care.
Whilst even this reports indicates that the continued public health focus for HIV/AIDS workers in this part of the US will be upon testing those who don’t know they are positive/their status, it also hints at the growing issue coming down the track.
That is to say those who know they are HIV positive, who have sex with someone else who knows they re HIV positive and transmit that infection. This is to say nothing of those who think they might be HIV positive, or don’t really care whether they are HIV positive and have unprotected sex with someone else who thinks someone might be positive but isn’t sure or who doesn’t care whether they are HIV positive. Lawyers will focus on questions of consent, intention and recklessness but social behaviour is seemingly evolving at a much faster pace than both health and legal strategies.