HIV/AIDS Sexual Health

Whose Job Is It to Keep You HIV Negative?

Recent Missouri HIV exposure case sparks dialogue on personal responsibility

Recently, news broke that an HIV-positive 22-year-old former college student in Missouri was accused of exposing others to HIV and allegedly taping his sexual encounters without their knowledge.
The police found more than 30 tapes in Michael Johnson’s home of partners he met mostly online and at his school, Lindenwood University, reported. Since his October arrest, five people have come forward claiming they had unprotected sex with Johnson and were unaware of his status. One man claims that he tested positive and Johnson was the source of his infection.
It’s unknown how many people he had sex with asked him if he was HIV-positive, but according to Buzzfeed, two of his partners did, and Johnson said he was not. If found guilty, Johnson could be sentenced to life in prison.
Clearly this has sparked some heated online debates—just read the online comments to any story written about this case.
Now, I have always believed that anyone with an STD has a moral and ethical obligation to disclose his or her status to his or her partner(s). I do not condone what Johnson is being accused of, but should the act of not disclosing be a crime?
But in many states it is. And what’s worrisome is that these laws don’t really protect HIV-negative folks. Instead they continue to stigmatize the HIV community, deter people from getting tested and unfairly prosecute innocent people living with HIV/AIDS. Remember, cases like Johnson’s may get the most media coverage, but they are the exception, not the rule. There are people being thrown in jail for biting or spitting at someone, when saliva isn’t how HIV is transmitted. Or being arrested because a scorned ex is trying to seek revenge by claiming they were unaware of their HIV status.
Not to mention, how if at all do these laws address the reality that for some living with HIV/AIDS, disclosing their status could mean they are attacked and even murdered?
But what’s really worrisome are the messages these laws send to HIV-negative folks like myself. They tell us that we are not responsible for our own health, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you want to remain HIV-negative, you have to make a conscious effort to do so.
To read the complete commentary, go to

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