Punishing HIV positive women: More on Quinta Layin Tuleh

Last week, I wrote about Quinta Layin Tuleh – a 28 year old woman from Cameroon sentenced to 238 days in federal prison because she is HIV positive and pregnant.
Today, Margo Kaplan from the Center for HIV Law and Policy has a piece on RH Reality Check analyzing just how terrible the judge’s decision was.

Judge Woodcock’s decision ignores the complex factors involved in a pregnant woman’s medical treatment decisions – as through being HIV positive makes one incapable of reasonable decision-making – and glibly equates being HIV-positive and pregnant with committing a crime. When reading the sentence, he makes clear that his sole reason for keeping Tuleh in prison was that she was HIV-positive and pregnant, and that, had she been pregnant and not HIV-positive, he would release her with time served. He reasons that he could keep Tuleh in jail “to protect the public from [her] further crimes.”
…While some states do, indeed, criminalize HIV exposure, Judge Woodcock does more than this – he imprisons a woman for the mere possibility that she might transmit HIV in the future. His reasoning essentially criminalizes being HIV-positive and allows the state to jail anyone with HIV simply because they have HIV and are capable of transmitting it to another. It classifies anyone with HIV as a threat to society who can be incarcerated at the whim of the state to protect public health.

Make sure to check out the whole piece, Kaplan does a great job linking the paternalism, discrimination and misogyny that are so rife in this case.

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One Comment

  1. katicabogar
    Posted June 12, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    in 2007, here in hungary we had a fortysomething lady, who was infected intentionally by her husband with hiv, because she wanted to leave him because of his alcoholism and domestic violence. he did know that he is hiv positive, and he had already intentionally infected at least 2 other women, former girlfriends, as they tried to leave him. he said, intentional infection would prohibit the women to have other sexual relationships after they have left him. the wife sued her husband on court with physical assault, and at least the judge has said, that the woman did not earn any judicial protection, as she had some pornfilms on the internet. the pornfilms have been made by her and her husband, for home use, and of course, hubby published them on the net, to ruin his wife’s full credibility. he had succeeded.
    so for a man to intentionally infect women, who trust him their life, with hiv, is no crime according to hungarian judges, but it is a crime in the us for a hiv positive woman to give birth, even, if chances are relatively low for the baby to get infected if medical care is accurate.
    how double-standard.

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