Alex Blaze

HIV disclosure laws fail again

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 27, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: government, HIV disclosure laws, HIV prevention, HIV/AIDS, North Carolina

The gay DJ I wrote about two months ago who was prosecuted for not disclosing his HIV status and having sex with men is back in trouble with the law:

On Sept. 6, Q-Notes reported that Joshua Waldon Weaver, 23, who works in clubs in Raleigh and Wilmington, pleaded guilty to charges that he failed to disclose his HIV-positive status and engaged in unprotected sex with three people. Weaver was given a suspended jail sentence and placed on probation. The terms of his probation ordered Weaver to use protection when engaging in sexual activity.

About two weeks ago Weaver was arrested after Wake County Public Health officials contacted his probation officer with information that he had possibly violated court orders by having sex without a condom. Assistant District attorney Boz Zellinger told The News & Observer that health officials became aware of the DJ's violation after he contracted another sexually transmitted disease that could have been prevented by the use of a condom.

I was skeptical at first about the efficacy of these laws, but consider me convinced! Obviously, prosecuting this man turned him around!

Sarcasm aside, this case shows that these laws just don't work, yet again. I wrote in September:

Whether or not an HIV positive person has a "moral obligation" to disclose isn't the issue here. Laws that attempt to create a sexual morality simply don't work (was there no gay sex going on in states with sodomy laws before Lawrence?). And if we want people to be more open with information, threatening to throw them in jail won't help any.

And obviously this person has his reasons and prosecution isn't going to change them.

But saying that they don't work assumes that these laws are about keeping people safer, a flawed assumption if ever there was any. They're not about increasing disclosure - they're about politicians who want to look tough against diseases and immoral behavior passing a law to campaign on.

Especially considering that they found out that Weaver had had unprotected sex because he caught another STD. Are the police concerned with finding this unfeeling monster who had unprotected sex with an HIV positive man without disclosing the fact that he had this other disease? I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

No one's saying that people shouldn't disclose their status before having sex. They definitely should. But making it legally required to tell does nothing to address this situation. All it does is take one off the most idiotic ideas that gay men came up with, "It's OK not to use condoms since he would have told me if he had it" and attaches the phrase "because he's required by law to disclose."

These laws are not the actions of a government that wants to protect people from a disease. A government that wants to do that invests in education campaigns related to prevention. A government that wants to curtail this disease funds and mandates scientifically-based comprehensive sex education in all classrooms. A government that's sincerely working against this disease distributes condoms in prison. A government that wants to ease the suffering caused by this disease would enact a national health care program to ensure that Americans can afford the life-saving drugs to treat this disease.

Our government can't get off its ass to make a decent effort to fight this disease, so prosecuting these folks is nothing more than passing the blame off to the first convenient target. It shifts the burden onto one group of already-maligned people and let's the rest of us wash our hands and pretend like something was done.

People should know by now that they have to use a condom unless they've gotten tested together or run the risk of seroconverting. If they don't know, there needs to be more education.

But not prosecution. Because that doesn't change minds, it increases suffering and gives people another reason to avoid getting tested.

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Ever thought that it could be the suspended jail sentence? What a joke!

There was no punishment here, he had to pay a fine and be on probation.

The law has no effect if it is not enforced, and in this case, though prosecuted, what were the repercussions on the guilty party? SQUAT!!

Yes, other things need to be done in order for people to maintain a level of safety that is no longer being taught. However, one cannot strip this law off the books as well because in the end, it should be attempted murder. Its reason for existence is to protect.

Well, we could be making the argument that all behavior that we don't like happens because not everyone doing it is in jail. In this case, putting him in an environment in which gay sex is a given and condoms are forbidden doesn't seem like the most logical solution.

I am open to studies that show that these laws are effective. So far, as guest blogger Todd Heywood pointed out a month ago on this site, the science is not on the side of these laws.

These laws, in practice, are obviously ineffective in this case. But can you give me a reasonable and effective alternative?

Can you explain to me the repercussions for his actions for the previous offenses?

Do you think one should be punished for knowingly exposing someone to HIV by having consensual unprotected sex with him/her?

as i read it he was rearrest for not using a condom after the health dept call his PO that he had another infection that could have been prevented if a condom was used.

my question is how does the health dept know that a condom wasn't used.

What if the other partner was also HIV+ then I would said that he didn't violate his Probation at all.

they knew because he caught another std that could have been prevented with a condom. They didn't disclose what that std was. then he confessed.

The other partner is of course off the hook. If goal was to prevent the spread of disease, he would have been apprehended and at least asked if he knew that he had the disease he eventually passed on to Weaver.

But the goal isn't preventing disease, so that other person is free to go.

Having read the earlier entry and the comments, and having seen no suggestion that you can see the other side of the coin, it seems pointless to opine. Still why the f not?

Swear to g_d it may be time to move somewhere where people understand quaint concepts like social responsibility and doing the right thing, even when it's the difficult thing.

The man has plenty of the defining characteristics of a psychopath, and we do ourselves harm by arguing that his freedom outweighs the freedom from harm. Individual freedom is not an absolute, it must co-exist with everyone else's.

I generally agree with your assessment of individual rights - that's why I blog rather prolifically (for an LGBTQ blog) about the horrors of libertarianism.

And the assistant DA would agree with your statement about Weaver being a psychopath (well, at least would go down that path):

“His behavior hasn’t changed,” Zellinger told the Raleigh newspaper after the hearing. “We’re trying to address the callousness his actions have demonstrated.”

I think that's what we're dealing with here - the punishment isn't about preventing the spread of HIV, it's about changing this person's "callousness," or, as you put it, his "defining characteristics of a psychopath." It's about Weaver as a person and his character, not about his actions or the consequences of his actions (if it were about the latter, there's someone else out there in North Carolina who just passed an STD on to an HIV positive man whom the authorities are ignoring).

I personally think that the criminal justice system is particularly ill-equipped to deal with callousness when it comes to sex crimes, but that's another matter. But isn't it reaching just a little to read a few articles about someone and say that he's almost a psychopath?

This instance has nothing to do with sex, morals, or public health and safety. The issue here is the court's ability to enforce its orders. The convict in this case has no absolute right to probation. He was granted probation subject to certain conditions. It appears that he violated those conditions.

Not only does the court have the power to throw the book at Weaver, it has a duty and obligation to do so. One can only hope that the judge's aim is true, and his throwing arm strong.

What does allowing this lunatic to stay on the street accomplish? It has been shown that one affected with pedophilia is not cured with prison time either. Nevertheless, they should not be left on the street to prey on children. Moreover, some studies have shown that rapists are repeat offenders as well. That does not make the law against such behavior useless.

While I concur that you cannot enforce morality and as adults we have a responsibility for our own health protection by using condoms it does not alter the fact that this person is willfully and without remorse engaging in activities that some (most likely most) find reprehensible. While education is certainly a part of dealing with the problem it cannot be the stand-alone solution. It seems to me that the discussion should be on how best to get this culpable person, et al, (straight or gay) off the streets – via prison, mental health facilities, or a group home for like-kind offenders.