A study led by the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and published online today in the American Journal of Public Health found that New Jersey law requiring individuals with HIV to disclose their HIV-positive status to their sexual partners does not appear to be an effective HIV prevention intervention.
Fifty-one percent of study participants were aware that New Jersey had such a law. However, persons who were aware of the law were just as likely as persons who were unaware of the law to disclose their HIV status, engage in less risky sexual behaviors (such as fewer number of partners), and use condoms. The majority of participants, regardless of being aware or unaware of the law, reported having been in compliance with the law for the previous year – that is, they abstained from sex or they informed their prospective partners of their HIV-positive status.
In fact, 85 percent of participants reported that they would not be willing to engage in unprotected sex with an HIV-negative partner who was not informed of their HIV-positive status.
Awareness of the law was not associated with negative outcomes for HIV-positive study participants. Participants who were aware of the law did not perceive greater social hostility toward persons living with HIV, or experience more discomfort with HIV status disclosure or more HIV-related stigma. Conversely, those who were unaware of the law perceived more social hostility toward persons living with HIV, experienced greater HIV-related stigma and were less comfortable with HIV status disclosure.
Principal Investigator Carol Galletly, JD, PhD, of the Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) at MCW, and her colleagues surveyed a sample of 479 people in New Jersey who are HIV-positive between March 22, 2010 and October 6, 2010. Participants varied by sex and race: 45 percent of were female, two-thirds were African-American, 16 percent were Hispanic, and 13 percent were Caucasian. The study population ranged from ages 19 to 66. Galletly is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at MCW.
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