Article Summary The criminalization of HIV in Michigan’


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Article Summary

‘From sickness to badness: The criminalization of HIV in Michigan’ is an article by Trevor Hoppe and to which tries to explain the criminalization of sickness. Sociological approaches regarding social control of illness tend to emphasizes on the process by which the social phenomena get controlled by medicine. Very little is known regarding how the social problems that were historically known as medical came to be regulated by criminal law. According to Hoppe, 33 States in the United States have enacted criminal laws requiring all the individuals who are HIV positive to disclose their infections to their partners before engaging in sexual practices.

The article follows the development of the criminalization of the sickness through the moralization narrative of HIV infection. The criminalization serves to construct HIV as a form of badness that deserves the intervention of legal entities and thus able to have HIV socially controlled. Trevor Hoppe, through a case study of Michigan’s criminal law, traces the mandatory disclosure of a person’s HIV status through a 20-year conviction to illustrate that the move from sickness to badness is grounded on panic and fear, to the public health’s detriment.

Trevor Hoppe goes ahead describing the legislative history of Michigan’s HIV disclosure law of criminalization as a punishment, despite the warnings that the spread of HIV could be fostered and as well the criminalization of sickness would impede public health efforts. The law entirely mandates the disclosure of the HIV status for a wide range of activities that include some with low or no risk of real transmission, leaving out the actual transmission as an essential component of the crime. Portrayals of the same nature of nondisclosure as bad and to which deserves to be punished are evident throughout the case. The article draws evidence from 58 felony nondisclosure convictions based in Michigan. 95% of the convictions were between 1992 and 2010. Individuals with HIV routinely get characterized as reckless AIDS carriers that need to be restrained, the carriers of death and a warrant to death to the innocent third parties as they are placed under the medication of the ARVs for the rest of their life. The HIV-virus was perceived as a weapon that needed to be controlled to minimize the impacts of HIV infections. The virus is likened to a harmful biological device, which according to the definition is a toxic substance that is derived or produced from an organism to which can be used to cause death, disease or injury to humans, plants or animals and therefore, HIV-virus fits in that category. Being a weapon, the virus needs legal intervention and that is the main reason for criminalizing nondisclosures.

The study assists in the explanation of the underlying causes for as well as the sociological mechanisms through which the criminalization of HIV remains prevalent despite the inadequacy of the epidemiological support. Hoppe points out that the sociological arguments have limited application as a direct challenge to criminal law. He argues that the enforcement of Michigan’s HIV disclosure law wasn’t driven by medical reasons or public health considerations but rather is a reflection of the pervasive moralization narratives which frames HIV as a moral infection that requires interdiction and punishment to the offenders.

Discussion questions

1. Should HIV nondisclosure be criminalized?

2. Is there any relationship between HIV nondisclosure and legal interdiction?