Washington Law Review


People living with HIV or AIDS must decide whether, how, and when to disclose their positive status. State laws play an outsized role in this highly personal calculus. Partner notification laws require that current and former sexual partners of individuals newly diagnosed with HIV be informed of their potential exposure to the disease. Meanwhile, people who fail to disclose their positive status prior to engaging in sexual acts—even acts that carry low to no risk of infection—can be prosecuted and incarcerated for exposing their partners to HIV. Although both partner notification laws and criminal HIV exposure laws were ostensibly created to combat the spread of the disease, they are ineffective at doing so. Instead, they threaten the safety and health of people living with HIV. This Article analyzes HIV laws through the lens of domestic violence and reveals that both compliance and failure to comply with these laws can endanger survivors of domestic violence. This previously ignored double bind is significant given the reciprocal relationship between HIV and domestic violence: people living with HIV are more likely to experience domestic violence, just as survivors of domestic violence experience higher rates of HIV. Yet nearly all state HIV laws fail to recognize this inextricable relationship and, in so doing, create additional, unwarranted dangers for many individuals living at the intersection of HIV and domestic violence. This Article exposes the pernicious shortsightedness of state HIV laws and proposes reforms that would better protect both individuals at risk of infection as well as those at risk of violence.

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