If it weren’t for this blog, I would long since have cancelled my subscription to The Advocate. I have found its reporting increasingly biased with its coverage of conservatives frequently dishonest. The magazine doesn’t have a single conservative columnist (though it has from time to time included conservative views on its website).
In its December 7, 2004 symposium on the previous month’s elections, it failed to include a single person who had supported the winner in the presidential contest despite the fact that just under one in four gay men and lesbians voted for George W. Bush.
That said, it often provides news of interest to gay people and occasionally has interesting features. Its left-wing rants often provide material for my posts. And sometimes it offers food for thought. In the latest issue, for example, its editorial “Is lying about HIV a crime?” considers an issue particularly important to our community.
The editors believe that prosecuting a sexually promiscuous Australian man “who told partners he was HIV-negative when he knew he wasn’t,” persuading some to “have unprotected sex with him . . ., would set a perilous precedent.” They believe:
it’s wrong to fabricate a story about your HIV status, much less to knowingly expose people to the virus. But it’s also wrong to criminalize people for doing either.
I agree with their contention that “Protecting yourself from HIV is a matter of personal responsibility,” but I’m not sure I share their conclusion.
I have yet to meet a gay man who doesn’t know the risks of unprotected intercourse. And yet some continue to “play unsafe” even with partners about whose status they are uncertain. While they may be taking great risks with their health, it is their responsibility to take precautions, not the government’s.
Several years ago, I chatted with a guy who seemed to solicit my sympathy for the way he became infected. He had picked up a guy at a bar and took him home. As his “date” was preparing to penetrate him, he went to get a condom, but the man said it wasn’t necessary because he was negative. Even though he knew better, my acquaintance allowed his recent acquaintance to penetrate him without protection. He learned later that this man had stopped using protection when he learned he was HIV-positive.
Given that gay men, like my acquaintance, know the risks, I’m not particularly sympathetic to those who don’t take precautions and end up infected. And given my own libertarian inclinations, I am sympathetic to the editors’ opposition to “criminalizing bad boyfriends.” It’s not the government’s job to make us responsible.
While the man who penetrated my acquaintance was evil, deceiving someone so he could engage in unprotected sex, my acquaintance was stupid.
Certain criminal laws, however, do punish those practicing deception. There is a moral difference between someone deceiving a potential partner (by lying about his status) so he can engage in unprotected sex and someone engaging in such sex while maintaining his silence about this status (when his partner doesn’t ask). But should there be a criminal one? Should the law intervene in such cases?
What do you think? Is The Advocate right that it would be wrong to criminalize those who lie about their HIV-status in order to engage in unprotected intercourse? Or should we punish them for this deception?