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But some health and legal experts say using criminal penalties to curtail the epidemic could backfire and fuel the spread of HIV.According to the CDC, 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, but one-fifth of them don’t know it.
“And they lull people who are not HIV-positive — or at least think they are not HIV-positive — into believing that they don’t have to do anything.Last spring, they married at a ceremony in the Bronx.“It took me a long time to propose, because I thought I would die,” he recalled.“It’s based in just a lot of fear and misconception.” Being HIV-positive can still carry a powerful stigma. The department has won settlements from state prisons, medical clinics, schools, funeral homes, insurance companies, day care centers and even alcohol rehab centers for discriminating against HIV-positive people.Individuals with HIV may also fear that news of their status will spread to third parties, leading to rejection, embarrassment or ostracism for themselves or even their loved ones.
The laws, these experts say, could exacerbate this problem: If people can be imprisoned for knowingly exposing others to HIV, their best defense may be ignorance.