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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Carolina: Researchers Examine Trends for HIV Criminalization to Determine Implications for the Southern Epidemic

Faculty members from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality have completed a study of historical and current trends in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) criminalization in South Carolina. They used their observations to draw inferences about the implications for the Southern HIV epidemic. The study was published in AIDS and Behavior.

In the 1980s, the United States enacted HIV criminalization laws throughout the country. Thirty years later, these laws continue to be used to persecute people living with HIV for a variety of behaviors despite limited evidence that doing so curbs HIV transmission.

According to the authors, HIV criminalization remains understudied, especially in the Deep South. With this paper, the researchers aimed to trace the emergence, maintenance and enforcement of HIV criminalization laws in South Carolina, which is disproportionately burdened by HIV.

They used criminology databases, such as Nexis Uni, to identify HIV-related laws and criminal cases and found that South Carolina’s criminalization laws have remain nearly unchanged since they were created in the 1980s. These laws continue to be used to prosecute (mostly African American) individuals. The authors concluded that HIV-related laws should be reconsidered and call for more efforts to studying the impact of HIV criminalization on the Southern epidemic.

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