Just what the doctor ordered?
The White House this month asked states to end criminalization of HIV transmission. Basically, these laws make it a crime for anyone who knows they have HIV to engage in activities that could transmit the disease to others (unless informed consent is given). According to the White House:
In many instances, the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment. CDC data and other studies tell us that intentional HIV transmission is atypical and uncommon. A recent research study also found that HIV-specific laws do not influence the behavior of people living with HIV in those states where these laws exist.
The entire argument here appeals to “public health goals,” a broadly consequentialist notion about overall health of the community. But perhaps the justification for these laws can be found elsewhere.
After all, the state has a responsibility to protect individuals from the negligence of others, and this law may be an expression of this responsibility. This protection can have societal costs, but non-consequentialists might argue that the rights of the individual trump these concerns – the protection of individuals from others is still the first responsibility of the state, morally prior to protecting citizens from, for example, diseases and poor health.
Photo by Flickr user Trygve.u used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.