Should it be illegal for HIV-positive persons to have unprotected sex without disclosure? An examination of attitudes among US men who have sex with men and the impact of state law

AIDS Care. 2010 Oct;22(10):1221-8. doi: 10.1080/09540121003668078.


The aims of this study were to describe the overall pattern and predictors of attitudes toward criminalizing unprotected sex without disclosure by persons living with HIV among a broad sample of men who have sex with men (MSM) living in the USA, and to examine whether attitudes and sexual risk behavior differ by states with HIV-specific laws or no such laws. Participants (n=1725) were recruited in a 3.5 month period to complete a cross-sectional 70-minute online survey assessing attitudes and high risk sexual behavior. Participants self-identified as male, 18 years of age or older, a US resident, and having ever had sex with a man. In addition, participants were coded as residing in a state with HIV-specific laws or not. Results showed that most (65%) respondents believed it should be illegal for persons living with HIV to have unprotected sex without disclosure. However, among the total sample and HIV-positive MSM, attitudes and unprotected sex with recent partners did not vary by state law. Believing that it should not be illegal for persons living with HIV to have unprotected sex without disclosure was associated with HIV-positive status (OR=0.33), higher education (ORs=0.42-0.64), gay orientation (non-gay orientation: OR=1.54), perceptions that state residents were somewhat or very accepting toward homosexuality (OR=0.75), unprotected anal intercourse with two or more recent sexual partners (OR=0.72), and lower perceptions of responsibility (OR=0.75). The results did not support the proposition that HIV-specific laws deter high-risk sexual behavior, however further research is needed to examine whether they act as a barrier for MSM at highest risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disclosure / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • United States
  • Unsafe Sex
  • Young Adult