HIV-specific criminal charges have been filed in the United States more than 1,500 times since the first HIV-specific laws were introduced in 1986.

Thirty-four states currently have HIV-specific criminal statutes in effect.

The majority of these laws criminalize HIV non-disclosure, and incarceration for consensual activity if they do not notify their partner of their HIV status. These prosecutions disregard condom use, viral load, or the actual risk of transmission.

Other statutes enhance sentences for crimes relating to sex work, heightening misdemeanors to felony status when the defendant is HIV-positive—even in solicitation cases where there is no allegation of sexual activity.

Many of these HIV-specific laws were passed in the early years of the epidemic, and ignore current scientific knowledge about the effectiveness of condoms, antitretrovals, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for preventing the transmission of HIV.

25 states criminalize one or more behaviors that pose low or negligible risk for HIV transmission, such as biting or spitting. Spit does not transmit HIV.

Even states without HIV-specific statutes have prosecuted people living with HIV, charging them with aggravated assault, attempted murder, and bioterrorism.

An updated annotated bibliography on HIV criminalization was published in August. (An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief—usually about 150 words—descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation.) First published in 2012, “Bibliography on Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure, Exposure, And Transmission” was curated by Dini Harsono, M.Sc., Assistant Director of the Clinical and Health Services Research (CHSR) Core and coordinator of the Criminalization of HIV Exposure Work Group at CIRA. The document systematically highlights the literature consisting of summaries of criminal laws, empirical research, legal and public health analyses, fact sheets and guidance documents, consensus statements, and other relevant references on criminalization in the context of the United States and Canada. The bibliography is a working document and will be updated periodically.

Organizations and resources on HIV criminalization:

Center for HIV Law & Policy

HIV Is Not a Crime National Training Academy

HIV Justice Network

Lambda Legal

Positive Women’s Network (PWN-USA)

Poz magazine

The Sero Project