Lawmakers Across US
Finally Pursuing Important
Note - After nearly 20 years of being forced by special interest groups into often treating the deadly AIDS epidemic as if it were a socio-political problem, legislators are finally confronting the reality of the epidemic and the legal remedies available. Imagine how many lives would have been saved had the politicians had the integrity to meet this challenge and deal with it appropriately 20 years ago...
NEW YORK (AP) - A growing number of lawmakers across the country are pursuing laws aimed at protecting the public from the AIDS virus, The New York Times reported Friday.
At least 29 states have laws making it a crime to knowingly transmit or expose others to HIV, the newspaper said. One-third of those states have adopted the laws within the past two years.
Similar measures are pending in 16 other states.
The legislation has been driven by recent HIV outbreaks in which people with the virus have intentionally infected others, the Times said.
The laws seek to identify those with the virus, notify partners and punish those who put others at risk. Public health officials say they are concerned such requirements may dissuade people with the disease from getting help.
Experts say the laws reflect a shift in attitude toward people with the virus, the Times reported, and represent a departure from legislation that sought to protect the civil liberties of people with HIV.
The advent of powerful AIDS treatment drugs also is contributing to the perception that the deadly disease is simply a chronic condition for many, experts said.
"Clearly, there is a backlash,'' said Lawrence Gostin, a director of the Georgetown University-Johns Hopkins University Program on Law and Public Health and a member of the advisory committee of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He likened the change in attitudes to the repulsion and anger many felt from the 1930s to 1950s against women infected with venereal disease.
"We have kind of returned to that era,'' Gostin said. "We are now treating the disease as more of a problem of criminal law and coercive state powers than one to do with health and medicine.''