HIV Criminalization Impacts Self Care

HIV criminalization is a path to incarceration and strips the “criminal” of her/his autonomy. It does so when it attributes its definitions located in substance, ideology, or normative claims which are a reflection of the powerful majority as shown earlier by Brown (2016). HIV criminalization earns the “criminal” a citizenship behind bars.  Scholars have critically evaluated this kind of scenario and it parallels critiques put forward on earned citizenship of immigrants. There shortcomings are embedded in politics, morality, policy, and law. On one extent it is laudable in that it deters voluntary transmission or malice-driven HIV transmission. It has been shown to suffer from serious and previously unaddressed theoretical and conceptual flaws that re-inscribe the moral claims of restrictionists, illuminate and imperil larger understandings of citizenship, and invite consideration of alternative frameworks for legalization.

On close examination HIV criminalization demonstrates that, while ideologically it espouses deterrence, it is predominantly neoliberal and punitive in orientation; it may not consider health status, it does not explore relation dynamics leading to HIV disclosure,  strips one of autonomy, subjects one to expectations laid down by the prison system, moral self-governance and under threat of various sanctions according to scholars. The neoliberal and punitive aspects of this framework cast the person who having failed to disclose HIV status to a partner and comes out with an HIV positive diagnosis in a deficit position. In doing so, HIV criminalization implicitly subscribes to the core claim of restrictionists — namely, that an HIV positive diagnosis in a person who previously did not disclose their HIV status have committed moral transgressions that require some form of moral recompense. Such an approach, scholars show is empirically flawed because it ignores the complex, structural causation of how people get into relations, and it is conceptually flawed in that it locates legalization within the restrictionists’ terms of the debate.


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