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People with HIV have even done time for spitting, scratching or biting.According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spitting and scratching cannot transmit HIV, and transmission through biting “is very rare and involves very specific circumstances” — namely, “severe trauma with extensive tissue damage and the presence of blood.” Many law enforcement officials and legislators defend these laws, saying they deter people from spreading the virus and set a standard for disclosure and precautions in an ongoing epidemic.Vreeland works as the communications coordinator for the Sero Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that campaigns against HIV exposure laws, which it denounces as “HIV criminalization.” In 2006, Vreeland started dating a classmate at Bard College in upstate New York. “What’s going through your head is being scared of being rejected,” he said.“It’s scary to give someone that power.” Vreeland and his girlfriend continued to date.In September, a disability rights group accused the Pea Ridge, Ark., school district of kicking out three siblings after officials learned that members of their family had HIV. The school district did not respond to requests for interviews but issued a statement acknowledging that it had “required some students to provide test results regarding their HIV status in order to formulate a safe and appropriate education plan for those children.” In romantic or sexual settings, people with HIV often report fear of rejection, abandonment and stigmatization.
A dozen miles away, his mother and stepfather looked on as local sheriff’s deputies searched their home for drugs — not illegal drugs, but lifesaving prescription medications.A national group of AIDS public health officials later submitted a brief estimating that the odds of Rhoades infecting Plendl were “likely zero or near zero.” After his lawyers petitioned the court, Rhoades’ prison sentence was changed to five years’ probation.But for the rest of his life — he is 39 — he will remain registered as an aggravated sex offender who cannot be alone with anyone under the age of 14, not even his nieces and nephews. Over the last decade, there have been at least 541 cases in which people were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, criminal charges for not disclosing that they were HIV-positive, according to a Pro Publica analysis of records from 19 states. Defendants in these cases were often sentenced to years — sometimes decades — in prison, even when they used a condom or took other precautions against infecting their partners.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.