Bil Browning

Indiana HIV Disclosure Docs Medically Inaccurate

Filed By Bil Browning | August 29, 2011 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Department of Health, HIV disclosure laws, HIV/AIDS, Indiana, medical, state forms

Indiana continues their slide back into the American Dark Ages with news that HIV disclosure forms required by the state include medically inaccurate information and most likely violate the law. Thumbnail image for IndianaThe forms are required by the state's "Duty to Warn" law, but each of Indiana's 92 counties are allowed to create their own documents resulting in a combination of conflicting and misinformed protocols.

Michigan Messenger reporter Todd Heywood has been covering the mishmash of forms that various states use to stigmatize HIV+ individuals and create criminals out of HIV+ people who have sex. Many of Indiana's forms, however, have several major inaccuracies. One doesn't include Hepatitis B, another disease listed under the law as requiring disclosure and has many other issues as well.

...The document says that prohibited sexual activity without disclosure includes mutual masturbation. The law, however, was specifically written to address "contact that has been demonstrated epidemiologically to transmit a dangerous communicable disease." There are no cases of HIV transmission as a result of mutual masturbation, and it is not considered a risk factor by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The document indicates that HIV-positive persons, even after disclosing his or her status, are prohibited from any "contact that has been demonstrated epidemiologically to transmit a dangerous communicable disease." That prohibition could be used to prosecute an HIV-positive mother who decides to get pregnant -- even if she is on anti-retroviral treatment, which has been proven to prevent prenatal transmission. This provision would also prohibit long term monogamous partners from having unprotected intercourse.

The Indiana State Department of Health refused to release the number of HIV infections due to mutual masturbation citing "confidentiality laws" even though they list comprehensive demographic info on their website. The truth is there are none. The state has so far declined to intervene or provide medically and legally accurate guidance.

The laws were created during the height of AIDS panic in the late 80s and many states have recently stopped using the forms. Michigan and Missouri have discouraged or outright discontinued using the documents so far this year alone.

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If we are going to delve into this issue, then we need names, dates, and all the essential details. The beginning $64K question is, Which counties have the offending forms? I want names.

If we want a particular county to change their form, then we have to initiate a lawsuit. And I am not sure every judge in Indiana will consider "medical facts" to be relevant (this is Indiana, after all ...). We would also need to find an HIV-positive person that lives in that county to enter into the lawsuit, so that we have "legal standing" to bring suit ... so this is another case whether the authorities use our closetry against us to get away with things they shouldn't be getting away with. Or to say it another way, we can't fight a war by cowering in the foxhole ...

Finally, we need to lobby to get the law changed, at least so that the state issues a standard form ... and we can lobby the administrators at the Department of Health to at least provide a form to the counties to use as a guideline or template. Given that, I expect many counties will play it safe and implement the standard template without modification.

Of course, too many would like to pass a law telling us we can't have sex at all, if not round us up into a concentration camp. After all, all "those people" are all going to go to Hell anyway ...

Britney Austin | August 30, 2011 12:02 AM

I take a very libertarian stance on this. Sex in and of itself when consensual among adults and in private is not the government's business. Period. People know the risks of sexual contact. If someone catches an infection due to consensual sex then it is an unfortunate situation but that is ultimately between that person and the other person they had sex with. I'm sure there are people who lie and say they don't have HIV or other infections when they do but lying is not a crime unless it is done under oath. Again, I come back to the whole point of the term "consensual." If the person is even the slightest bit concerned over their health they can decide to not have sex or to have safer sex.

I certainly think disclosure is the moral and ethical thing to do when it comes to those who have HIV or other transmittable infections. But it should not be the law. It comes down to personal responsibility. Besides, these laws as far as I'm concerned lead to a slippery slope. Over 10,000 people in the U.S. die every year from the annual influenza. Should people be prosecuted for failing to inform those around them that they have the flu and be put in prison when they cough in a public place? This is absurd.

The government needs to stay out of people's private lives. HIV is a medical condition and that is how it should be treated in my opinion. The government should spend its time, money, and energy on curing this condition instead of passing and enforcing laws controlling consensual adult behavior in private.