Against Criminalization of Sexual Behavior
The first salvo against criminalization has been fired at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. In this week’s issue of JAMA, Edwin Cameron and I have called for the international community to take a clear stand against criminalization. Cameron, an openly gay and openly HIV+ South African judge, has been called by no less than Nelson Mandela “one of South Africa’s new heroies.” We argue that criminal law cannot draw reasonable, enforceable lines between criminal and non-criminal behavior, nor protect individuals or society from HIV transmission. In the protection of women, it is a poor substitute for policies that go to the roots of subordination and gender-based violence. The use of criminal law to address HIV is inappropriate except in rare cases where a person acts with conscious intent to transmit HIV and does so.