Specifically, Cooper pointed out that while the president was refusing to allow his doctor to say when his last negative test for coronavirus was, people with HIV can still be arrested in some states for not disclosing their status to a sexual partner.
“There are gay people in this country who are HIV-positive, and in some states, they can be arrested if they do not inform a sexual partner that they are HIV positive, even though if they are on medication it is absolutely zero threat to a sexual partner. None. They cannot transmit the virus,” said Cooper.
“In America, in several states, they can be sent to jail because of that. Donald Trump is out there, possibly infecting people … he could’ve infected Joe Biden on the stage … and he’s not held responsible.”
The heated exchange between Cooper and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum revolved around a disagreement whether it was Trump’s character at fault or a problem with policy decisions.
David Axelrod, a former strategist for Barack Obama, added that the president has subjugated public interest to political interest and lives have been lost because of it — making it a policy problem.
In 21 states, laws require people with HIV who are aware of their status to disclose their status to sex partners, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The maximum sentence length for violating an HIV-specific statute is also a matter of state law. Some states have a maximum sentence length up to life in prison, while others have maximum sentence lengths that are less than 10 years.
Only nine states have laws that account for HIV prevention measures that reduce transmission risks, such as condom use, and antiretroviral therapy.
Bruce Richman, founding executive director, Undetectable = Untransmittable, Prevention Access Campaign, told The Independent that HIV criminalisation laws are outdated, not based on science, and have not been shown to prevent HIV transmission.
“When people with HIV are on effective treatment it's impossible for them to pass on HIV to their sexual partners. The risk is zero. There's no potential for harm,” Mr Richman explains.
“However, in this case, the president knowingly and recklessly ignored public health guidance and put those around him at serious risk of contracting Covid-19. And given the power imbalance, many may have felt coerced not to wear masks to protect themselves from harm,” he adds. “As it stands, the criminal justice system is not effective at solving public health issues, but the president must be held accountable for his actions.”
Eight states have reformed or repealed HIV-specific criminal laws — California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.
Changes include removing HIV prevention issues from the criminal code and including them under disease control regulations; requiring the intent to transmit; actual HIV transmission; or providing defences for taking measures to prevent transmission, such as viral suppression or being noninfectious, condom use, and the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis by the partner.
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