“From Sickness to Badness: Enforcing Michigan HIV Law as a Site of Social Control”
In the state of Michigan, people infected with HIV are required by law to disclose their HIV-status to their partners before engaging in sexual contact – regardless of whether that contact poses a risk of transmission. Failure to do so is a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison. Despite scientific advances in treating and managing HIV disease, prosecutions for nondisclosure have continued unabated and appear to be on the rise. My dissertation explains this paradoxical trend by arguing that Michigan’s HIV disclosure law was not intended to control HIV as a virus but rather as a moral infection requiring interdiction and punishment. With recent moves in several states to expand the criminal code to punish other diseases such as hepatitis, my dissertation responds to the urgent need to understand not only how justice has been medicalized but also how particular health issues come to lend themselves to interdiction and punishment.