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Study Examines HIV-Related Offenses

Black and Latino people made up two-thirds of those who came into contact with the criminal justice system through HIV-related laws in California, according to a study released this week by UCLA researchers.  

Also, the study said, most of the incidents were related to the sex trade, and white men were significantly more likely to be released and not charged in HIV-specific criminal incidents. Black men, black women and white women were significantly less likely to be released and not charged.

HIV laws were originally intended to control the spread of HIV by prosecuting individuals who knowingly exposed other people. However, the study said, “these data show that in 95% of incidents, no proof of exposure or transmission was required for prosecution.”

About 800 people in California from 1988 to 2014 have been directly affected by four state laws that make it a crime to knowingly solicit sex or engage in sex that could infect other people with HIV.

The study said:

  • When charges were brought, almost all — 389 out of 390 specific incidents — resulted in a conviction;
  • About 95% of incidents involved sex work;
  • Women made up 43% of those accused of HIV-related crimes;
  • White men were released and not charged in 60% of cases, while black men, black women and white women were released between 36% to 43% of the time; and
  • Almost half of the incidents occurred in Los Angeles County, even though only 37% of people living with HIV/AIDS are in that county.

“Like criminal law enforcement in general, HIV criminal laws appear to disproportionately impact specific communities,” the report said.

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Capitol Desk Public Health