Florida Judge Rules HIV Notification Laws Apply Only to Straight People
In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed a law that made it a felony for a person with any STD, including HIV, to have sexual intercourse without informing their partner of their status beforehand. Problem is the only thing legally considered "sexual intercourse" in the State of Florida is your standard penis-in-vagina sex. Of course, this legislature -- the one that blushed when a member mentioned the word uterus, and finally got around to outlawing bestiality only because members didn't like talking about the matter -- isn't likely to eagerly fix the loophole anytime soon.
The loophole was noticed only recently. An HIV-positive woman was accused of having sex with another woman without informing her of her status. However, the judge ruled that because their actions were not technically "sexual intercourse," the law could not be applied. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, that interpretation of the law must now be applied statewide.
What that means is that a law meant (at least in theory) to curb HIV transmission does not apply to one of the groups that is most at risk for infections: men who have sex with men.
But some critics wonder about the usefulness and ethics of such a law in the first place. The law means a person who knows their HIV status and has sex without informing their partner could spend up to five years behind bars whether or not protection is used and whether or not the virus is transmitted. Granted, anyone with any STD should inform their partner beforehand, but legislating such things has the unintended consequences of further stigmatizing HIV and leading some people to think they might be better off not knowing their status in the first place.
Regardless, the current law has a large loophole, and the Tribune reports that fixing it might be tricky business for the prudish legislature.
"It's something that absolutely has to be clarified," Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) told the paper. "It's one of those touchy subjects that people don't want to debate... On this one, I think they just simply missed it."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.