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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 115402 Find in a Library
Title: Morality and the Health of the Body Politic
Journal: Hastings Center Report (December 1986)  Pages:30-36
Author(s): D E Beauchamp
Date Published: 1986
Page Count: 7
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Restrictions designed to protect the public from AIDS by limiting the liberty of homosexuals reflects an underdesirable legal moralism that is based on sexual prejudice.
Abstract: AIDS is clearly a threat to public health. However, legal moralists would restrict liberty as a defense against a moral rather than a physical harm. Thus, legal moralism uses the law to protect the majority's morality from the deviant group. In the case of AIDS, the groups are the homosexuals and intravenous drug users who are generally shunned by the larger society. AIDS policy must begin by recognizing that the probable lack of a vaccine for some time to come means that the disease cannot be eliminated. Thus, education is our only hope for prevention. However, the laws against homosexuality in about half the states, together with social prejudice, prevent public health agencies from developing and aggressively carrying out open sex education campaigns for safer homosexual sex. Sodomy laws also discourage homosexuals from seeking prompt medical advice and treatment for many sexually transmitted diseases. Similarly, moralists are reluctant to distribute sterile needles to intravenous drug users as a strategy to stop the spread of AIDS. The best public health policy against AIDS would recognize the right of every individual to fundamental autonomy, while viewing health and safety as a common good whose protection promotes community and the common health. It would also recognize that although sex, including homosexual sex, is not the concern of the community, sexual practices that threaten the common health are. Policy efforts thus should focus directly on public health and on eliminating laws reflecting centuries of superstitions and prejudice that impede efforts to improve public health.
Main Term(s): AIDS/HIV transmission
Index Term(s): Deviance; Discrimination; Homosexuality; Human rights; Moral-decency crimes; Policy; Public Attitudes/Opinion
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