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NCJ Number: 119763 Find in a Library
Title: Politics of AIDS: Compulsory State Powers, Public Health, and Civil Liberties
Journal: Ohio State Law Journal  Volume:49  Dated:(1989)  Pages:1017-1058
Author(s): L Gostin
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 42
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The author examines the levels of risk posed by behavior that can potentially transmit AIDS and concludes that compulsory State powers such as the isolation of HIV carriers and criminal prosecution for HIV transmission have no place in fighting a disease epidemic.
Abstract: The issue of whether a person who risks AIDS transmission should be subject to coercive State action is not just an academic question. State legislators have enacted laws that authorize the isolation and criminal prosecution of "recalcitrant" AIDS carriers, and prosecutors have filed criminal charges in some cases. Coercive powers will not go to the core of the problem, since the overwhelming majority of AIDS transmission cases are outside the reach of legal control mechanisms and go unnoticed. Reasons why coercive powers are inappropriate to control the spread of disease are threefold: (1) they often fail to discriminate between unsubstantiated fears of high-risk groups and truly dangerous behavior; (2) they are unlikely to deter highly ingrained human sexual or needle sharing behavior; and (3) they cause a loss of trust and confidence by vulnerable populations who will not cooperate with essential public health programs of education, counseling, and treatment. Most compulsory powers do not focus narrowly on significant health risks and are unlikely to be effective in preventing either low-risk or high-risk behaviors. The value of coercive laws as a deterrent is diminished further by the fact that AIDS is a terminal condition. An additional concern is that primary targets of coercion are traditionally unpopular groups such as gays, drug users, and prostitutes who are disproportionately represented by racial minorities. 214 references.
Main Term(s): AIDS/HIV prevention
Index Term(s): AIDS/HIV transmission; Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Risk taking behavior
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