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Criminalization Of Knowlingly Transmitting AIDS Essay Research

Criminalization Of Knowlingly Transmitting AIDS Essay, Research Paper

Brief History of AIDS and the Criminalization

of Knowingly Transmitting It

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus was discoverd

independently in France in 1983 and in the United States in 1984. In the

United States, it was initially identified in 1981. In 1986, a second virus,

now called HIV-2, was also discovered in Africa. HIV-2 also causes AIDS.

AIDS is transmitted in three ways: From

sexual contact without protection, from the mixing of ones blood with infected

blood, and from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection can

occur from blood transfusions of infected blood, or sharing ‘dirty’ needles.

(Needles already used, in this case, by a HIV positive person.)

The criminalization of intentionally spreading

AIDS has been a big issue recently, and still remains so. As of September,

1991, legislation criminalizing AIDS transmission has been passed in 24

states. Among these states are California, Idaho, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan,

and South Carolina. Under these current laws, it is a crime to knowingly

transmit the virus through sex, sharing needles, donating infected blood,

organs, or skin tissue.

The first person to go to court under these

laws in Michigan was Jeffrey Hanlon. Hanlon was a gay man who infected

another man from Michigan while he was in New York. The American Civil

Liberties Union, who agreed to take the case, agrued that the AIDS disclosure

law is unconstitutional. Privacy of those with AIDS is what they were worried

about. Opponents argued that “they’re [those with AIDS] killing people.

It’s like rape.” The maximum sentence Hanlon could have recieved was four

years in prison and a $2000 fine.

In addition, under the current New York

State law, which dates back well before June, 1987, the knowing transmission

of a venerial disease is a felony. However, at that time, and currently,

AIDS was not classified as a venerial disease.

Interviews Concerning the Issue

Most people believe that the willful transmission

of AIDS to others it virtually murder. I have interviewed **name** and

**name**. Both of them feel that intentionally passing AIDS on to another

person is murder. The recipient of the virus will, in almost every case,

die rather quickly of an AIDS related disease.

**name** feels that “if someone knowingly

transmits AIDS to another person, it’s like committing murder. He or she

should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

In addition to personal interviews, I have

found the opinions of Governor Cuomo and former President Ronald Reagan.

On June 1, 1987, Cuomo revealed that state

lawmakers would consider making the transmission of AIDS a crime. He was

quoted at the time as saying:

“If you know you have AIDS and you pass

it on to someone who is not aware, that should be regarded as a very serious

offense. I’m not talking about sins and morality; I’m talking about a sin

against the community, a crime. We should look into that.” However, nothing

was proposed at the time.

Former President Ronald Reagan called for

“routine” AIDS testing of prisoners, marriage license applicants, immigrants,

and possibly some hospital patients. His purpose was only to identify carriers

of the disease; no comment concerning the criminalization of the transmission

of AIDS was made.

Reasons for the Criminalization of Knowingly

Transmitting AIDS

There are not many reasons for the criminalization

of knowingly transmitting AIDS. However, they are very convincing arguments.

The first and one of the most convincing

arguments is because it will help stop the propogation of the virus. Ideally,

if people know that it is a crime to transmit the virus, then they will

not. The only way that AIDS will remain an epidemic is if it is continually

spread. This is because those with AIDS will in most cases die rather quickly

of an AIDS related disease. If they do not spread it, then the number of

people with the virus will decline steadily without fail.

Another reason is that someone who is intentionally

transmitting the disease is doing it for their own satisfaction and/or

to hurt others. Such is the case with a drug pusher. Many magazine articles

have made reference to the analogy “a drug pusher is the same as an AIDS

pusher.” Their argument is that if drug pushers are treated as if they

commit criminal acts, then so should the supposed ‘AIDS’ pushers.

The Constitutional argument involoved is

also a moral one. By transmitting the virus willingly one is usurping on

others’ rights to life and happiness. It is also seen as wrong by the public.

In effect, it is murder in the second or third degree. If it is done intentionally,

it is murder in the first degree. Obviously this should be illegal and

those who break the proposed laws should be prosecuted as if they committed

a crime.

Another reason to criminalize the transmission

of AIDS is because the money from fines incurred may be put towards research

and development of cures, as well as education and prevention programs.

This will help stop the problem and also speed up the process of finding

a cure or immunization for AIDS.

Reasons Against the Criminalization of

Knowingly Transmitting AIDS

There are many more reasons against the

criminalization of willingly transmitting AIDS to others. However, these

are based not on morals but on facts and practicality.

Criminalizing AIDS would divert millions

of dollars to legal fees that could be better spent on AIDS programs such

as prevention, education, and research and development in terms of finding

a cure. “Criminalization is a short cut taken when not enough energy is

given to prevention.” Instead of helping erradicate the epidemic, criminalization

would instill more fear among the people living with HIV. “It would create

a witch hunt atmosphere,” stated William Ramir?z, an attorney for a HIV

positive client. Criminalizing AIDS transmission would open doors for people

to knowingly accuse others they know that have it just to get rid of them.

The law would also be practically impossible

to enforce. In some cases, intent would have to be proven. However, it

is usually impossible to prove intent since it is not possible to go “inside”

the minds of others to know what they were thinking in their moment of

passion, whether it be intercourse or drug use.

Even the United States Health Department

opposes criminalization. They fear that it would scare people from reporting

that they have AIDS. This is because those that do report it may be accused

of committing a crime sometime in the future.

My Position and Conclusion

I have mixed feelings on whether or not

the transmission of AIDS should be a criminal act. I feel that it is morally

wrong, and in effect, those who do it are committing murder. There is definitely

a valid argument there. However, due to the validity of the arguments against

the criminalization of passing AIDS on to others, I am partial to both

sides. I agree that it would divert millions of dollars that could be put

to better use in research and other programs. I also agree that it would

be legally and scientifically impossible to prove intent.

I feel that because of these conflicting

ideas that I believe, the best way to resolve the issue would be to make

transmitting the virus a criminal act, but not subject to jail time. Instead

of wasting the taxpayers money on giving free medical care and room and

board to inmates, it should be put towards finding a cure for AIDS. Instead

of a jail term, those who transmit the disease should be fined very heavily

so as to discourage them from repeating the offense. The money accrued

from the fine should then be used for research and other related programs,

including helping those that are infected.

All in all, AIDS is an epidemic that is

a part of the nineties. It is scary, but it must be dealt with. If the

proper precautions are taken, then eventually it will be taken care of

in the right way. However, there will unfortunately always be those that

have malice towards society and insist upon spreading their pain and suffering.