The Crime of Being Positive

The American Independent
April 2, 2013

In the late fall of 1988, state lawmakers and representatives from major insurance and pharmaceutical companies were hard at work addressing the looming AIDS crisis for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative-leaning think tank that produces state-based business-friendly model legislation.

The efforts of ALEC’s AIDS policy working group were published that year in a 169-page book containing 13 HIV-specific legislative recommendations. Some of those model laws would, after becoming real state laws, go on to effectively criminalize the behavior of people living with HIV and perpetuate a lasting stigma against HIV-positive people. Today, a majority of states have laws on the books that criminalize HIV exposure regardless of whether the virus was transmitted or there was an intention to infect another person with HIV.