Sanjay Johnson and James Booth got together Oct. 5, 2015, it was a
one-night stand, but they would forever be bonded after Booth told an
Arkansas police station Johnson had exposed him to HIV.
Johnson’s doctor instances that he was unable to transmit the virus
due to medication to suppress it, Little Rock prosecutors went ahead
and filed a criminal charge against Johnson.
26, said the charge tested his ability to going on with life, even
However, Booth claims he should have been told about Johnson’s HIV status no matter what. He said he would have been able to protect himself.
are 20 U.S. states with laws similar to Arkansas, making it a crime
for HIV positive individuals to have sex without first letting their
partners known about the infection, even if they’re on medication
to suppress it or use a condom.
to HIV patient advocates and health experts, the laws don’t do
anything to deter the behavior; just adds to the stigma that stops
people from being diagnosed and seeking treatment.
Michigan and North Carolina have updated their HIV policies that
would exempt HIV positive people on virus-suppressing medication from
being prosecuted. A law in Louisiana went in effect in August 2018
that lets defendants challenge charges of exposing a partner to HIV
if a doctor provides evidence that they are being treated.
claim the policies are causing a gap that’s leaving people unable
to attain the virus-suppressing drug vulnerable to being prosecuted.
States need to focus on decriminalizing HIV exposure unless they can
prove malice – a person intentionally infects another person.
legal fight is on the heels of the Trump administration’s goal to
completely rid the world of HIV by 2030.
advocates say, even though the disease is no longer a death sentence,
it still means a lifetime of costly medical treatment.
a brief, filed last year, the Arkansas attorney general’s office
rejected the argument that HIV exposure should no longer be
criminalized, saying it was still a health risk for the public.
and Booth met through a gay dating app.
claimed he asked Johnson of his HIV status and was told he was HIV
positive. The pair then had unprotected sex. Johnson said he doesn’t
recall talking about his HIV status. Prosecutors offered Johnson a
plea deal, which demonstrates officials are aware of science’s
advances in HIV. According to the terms of the deal, Johnson did not
have to spend time in prison, and his record was expunged.
prosecutors wanted to highlight the importance of talking about HIV
status with a partner. After all, there’s still a victim in the
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV positive
people on antiretroviral medications can lower their viral levels to
the point that they don’t transmit the disease. However, in 2016,
roughly half of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. thought to live
with HIV are virally suppressed.
Carolina Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Sarah
Lewis Peel said the state’s new policy ensures that HIV prevention
and control strategies are deeply based on science. Critics claim the
change could leave some people behind, but she listed various
programs that can help with HIV medication costs.
say in decriminalizing HIV exposure unless there was intent is a move
in saying HIV is manageable and cannot be easily contracted. And,
Georgia may be going in that direction. There is pending litigation
that requires proof of intent before HIV cases could be prosecuted.
unknown the number of people who have faced prosecution under the
various HIV laws in the U.S. However, authorities in Georgia and
Florida have made about 1,500 arrests on suspected HIV-related crimes
from the 1980s to 2017 with hundreds of convictions.
to Booth, he tested HIV position after his sexual encounter with
Johnson. However, Nathanial Smith, Johnson’s doctor, said there was
no way Booth contracted the disease from Johnson since his patient’s
viral load was very low. He testified in the case.
Johnson entered a no-contest plea in February to aggravated assault
and was given five years’ probation. If convicted, he could have
spent up to 30 years in prison and would have registered as a sex
said the experience had scarred, making him more closed off than
Booth said he’s sympathetic to what Johnson endured but still feels it was right to tell the police about the situation. He said it was something that had to be dealt with.