JEFFERSON CITY, MO (AP) – Requiring people who are HIV-positive to inform their sexual partners about their disease does not violate constitutional protections of free speech or privacy, the Missouri Supreme Court wrote in a unanimous opinion released Tuesday.
The ruling arose from the case of a woman sentenced to seven years in prison for not telling a man she was HIV-positive before having sex with him. The woman appealed her conviction on the grounds that the law, which also applies to needle-sharing and blood donation, forces her to violate her own privacy through unconstitutionally compelled speech, according to court documents.
But Judge Mary Russell wrote that the matter at hand – exposing someone to a disease without their knowledge or consent – is behavior, not speech. Any regulation of speech is incidental to the law, she wrote, and people would not be compelled to disclose anything about themselves unless they want to do something that could endanger someone else.
Russell also rejected the claim that the law intruded into a realm of private action, which was the argument used when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws. Unlike that case, Russell wrote, this law outlaws sexual conduct that is potentially harmful and not truly consensual, since a victim lacks the knowledge to consent to HIV exposure.
In 1998, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law that argued the results of an HIV test were privileged medical information and should not be admissible as evidence.