RALEIGH, N.C. — An HIV-positive man has been charged with a public health violation after his partner informed police the man had failed to disclose his HIV status during their two-month-long relationship. WTVD, an ABC affiliate, first reported the story.
The partner of John Conway Hart, 27, told police that he found out about Hart’s HIV status after two months of unprotected sex. Hart could face up to four months in jail and a medical quarantine if convicted. It is not known whether the partner was infected.
“This is an extreme last measure for us, an extreme last measure for us. This is the very last thing that we would look to do and we would, we would try everything else first,” Wake County Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford told the ABC station.
Hart’s case isn’t the first HIV-related crime to surface out of the Raleigh area. In 2008, a D.J. popular in gay nightclubs in Raleigh and Wilmington was charged with the same crime and put on house arrest after a second violation.
John Paul Womble, executive director of the Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina, told qnotes the state’s laws on communicable disease control can be a double-edged sword.
“The need to disclose one’s status is critically important for both HIV-positive people and their partners,” Womble said. “It’s about protecting one another and not about hunting one another down. As long as that’s the intent of the law — to protect the community and to protect and care for one another — then the law is outstanding. If it is used as weapon, these these laws are detrimental.”
Womble added, “It is important to be open and honest about your status and/or choosing not to engage in sexual behavior until you’re comfortable disclosing your status. That responsibility also falls on partners. You’re responsible for protecting yourself, too.”
The communicable disease laws are regulated under North Carolina Administrative Code 10-41 and North Carolina General Statute 130A-144(f). The laws address control measures regarding the spread of HIV and require those with communicable diseases — including other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and tuberculosis — to comply with measures intended to curb their proliferation.
Violations are prosecuted only in rare cases.
The Raleigh D.J. was one of just two Wake County residents in 15 years to be convicted of the crime. The year prior, 16 people were convicted under state communicable disease laws. Rather than HIV, many of the instances were related to diseases such as tuberculosis or hepatitis.