Should a virtual death sentence warrant a life sentence? Recently, Missouri resident David Lee Mangum engaged in intercourse with nearly 300 people despite his HIV-positive status. Further, Mangum had unprotected sex with at least 15 sexual partners. The man met most of his sexual partners through the “men seeking men” on Craigslist.
One of Mangum’s sexual partners, D.B., found out that Mangum was HIV-positive, and he went directly to the police. D.B. stated that he “specifically” asked Mangum if he had any diseases, but Mangum declined. Nevertheless, Mangum admitted to the police that he “didn’t tell his sexual partners about his HIV status because of his fear of rejection.” Police have only been able to track down 50 to 60 of Mangum’s sexual partners in Stoddard County, Missouri, and the investigation continues.
Legal Ramifications of HIV Non-disclosure
D.B. tested positive for HIV; if David Lee Mangum was the cause, he could be liable for a life sentence in prison. Missouri law states that knowingly exposing someone to HIV without their consent can result in up to 15 years in prison, and infecting a person with HIV can even warrant a life sentence. Mangum knew that he was HIV-positive but he did not get D.B.’s consent before engaging in sexual activity, and D.B. is now HIV-positive as a result of Mangum’s actions. Accordingly, Mangum might even be liable for a life sentence under Missouri Law.
In J.B. v. Bohonovsky, the New Jersey court states that “a person who knows that he or she has AIDS and misrepresents or conceals that from a sexual partner and then contracts AIDS as a result,” becomes liable for the partner’s injuries. The plaintiff in the case sued under an intense emotional distress claim for anxiously awaiting the test results.
Massachusetts’s law also criminalizes the knowing transmission of HIV. However, Massachusetts has little explicit case law, other than Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. 265 22B(f). Instead, the Aggravating Factors statute places HIV/AIDS under its umbrella of sexually transmitted diseases that might be contracted through forcible rape on children under 16. Evidently, the focus of the law is to protect children from sexual abuse, but misinformation about HIV also raises public policy concerns.
Public Policy Concerns
While HIV is no longer the deadly phenomenon that it was 20-30 years ago, the LGBT community still feels its effects. Lesbian and gay individuals continue to fight an uphill battle against discrimination. Accordingly, they are consistently devoting time and effort to informing society about HIV/AIDS. Cases like David Lee Mangum’s show that the LGBT community is still not sufficiently informed about HIV, and they need the resources to no longer fear the consequences of the virus.
The fear of contracting HIV, and its potential development into AIDS, is real and painful for those who are forced to experience it. Thus, people who do not inform their sexual partners about their HIV status deserve real punishment for their elected ignorance.