Wauwatosa Now (09.22.12)
Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) surveyed HIV-infected persons in New Jersey between March 22, 2010 and October 6, 2010 on the New Jersey law that requires HIV-positive individuals to disclose their status to sexual partners. Carol Galletly, JD and PhD, of the Center for AIDS Intervention Research at MCW and the principal investigator of the study together with her colleagues found that the law does not seem to be an effective deterrent that prevents HIV transmission. Although 51 percent of study participants reported knowledge of the law, those who knew and those who did not were just as likely reveal their status, engage in less risky sexual behaviors, and use condoms. Most of the participants, whether aware of the law or not, reported complying with the law for the previous year. Eighty-five percent of the participants stated that they were not willing to have unprotected sex with a seronegative partner who was unaware of their HIV-positive status.
Knowledge of the law was not associated with negative outcomes for HIV-infected study participants. Persons aware of the law did not report greater social hostility toward persons with HIV or experience more discomfort with HIV-status disclosure or more HIV-related stigma. On the other hand, those who were not aware of the law perceived more social hostility toward HIV-infected persons, experienced greater HIV-related stigma, and were less comfortable with HIV-status disclosure.
The 479 study participants, who were aged 19 to 66 years, were 45 percent female and were approximately 66 percent African American, 16 percent Hispanic, and 13 percent Caucasian. When the researchers questioned them about responsibility for HIV prevention, 90 percent believed that an HIV-infected person bore at least half of the responsibility for ensuring that their seronegative partners did not contract the disease through sex, and 34 percent felt the HIV-infected person had the full responsibility.
The article, “New Jersey’s HIV Exposure Law and the HIV-Related Attitudes, Beliefs, and Sexual and Seropositive Status Disclosure Behaviors of a Sample of Persons Living with HIV,” was published ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health (doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300664). Public Health Law Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health funded the research.