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What YOU need to know

For people with HIV, a contentious relationship, a personal misunderstanding or even a minor infraction of the law can lead to a long jail sentence, public shaming and registration as a sex offender. HIV-specific criminal charges have been filed in the U.S. more than 1,500 times.

If you have been accused, DO NOT TALK to police or investigators

  • Do not acknowledge your HIV status (no matter how well-known your HIV+ status might be, just say you want a lawyer).
  • Do not provide blood, saliva or give permission for any medical tests.
  • Do not sign any documents.
  • Do not volunteer any information.

Tell them you want a lawyer and will not answer questions until you have one.

They may try to convince you things “will be easier” if you cooperate; this is rarely true.  Providing information before you have the help of a lawyer is NEVER to your advantage, even if you know you did nothing wrong.

Some people get convicted because they cooperated before they had a lawyer. Be polite, but absolutely do not talk, acknowledge, provide information or sign anything until you have a lawyer.

Find a Lawyer

You have and should exercise your right to remain silent until you have a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the state must provide one for you. Finding a lawyer knowledgeable about HIV and criminalization can be difficult.

Contact your local public defender’s office, HIV legal clinic or service provider or reach out to the following agencies for a referral or other resources:

Sero Project:  or email us at, please include your phone number

Lambda Legal Defense:  Lambda’s website has “helpline” numbers for different parts of the country.

ACLU (to find your local ACLU chapter):

Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (mostly focused in New England):

AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania (mostly in PA and NJ):

AIDS Law of Louisiana:

Whitman-Walker Legal Services (Washington, DC):

Duke AIDS Legal Project (North Carolina):

Public Law Center (Southern California):

Center for HIV Law & Policy:

Protect Yourself

It is awkward, but having proof that you disclosed your status to sex partners can help protect you from prosecution (but it is no guarantee). Possible strategies include:

  • Have your partner sign a disclosure acknowledgement form (see sample)
  • Save email, text exchanges, voicemail recordings, social media profiles or other evidence that you disclosed your HIV status (If arrested, your computer may be seized; save copies in a safe separate location)
  • Take your partner with you to your doctor or caseworker and ask them to note your partner’s knowledge of your HIV+ status in your file
  • Talk about your HIV+ status in front of your partner and a third party you trust who could testify that you disclosed
  • Make a video with your partner talking about your HIV status
  • Keep a diary noting occasions when you discussed your HIV status with your partner
  • Make note of physical evidence of your HIV status, like medications in clear sight, doctor visit reminders, printed HIV-related brochures or magazines, etc., that others have seen.