|Michael Johnson (left) with Dr. Steve Thrasher|
There's an exciting update in the ongoing saga of Michael Johnson (also known as "Tiger Mandingo"), a Black gay man with HIV who at the age of 23 in 2015 was sentenced to 30-years in prison for knowingly exposing several gay men to HIV (some of whom subsequently tested positive for HIV later). Johnson's case was a textbook case of HIV stigma combined with racial animus leading to a problematic criminal justice result. Happily, this conviction was overturned in 2016 and last year Johnson agreed to a 10-year Alford plea deal with the last 3 years converted to parole.
One of the key journalists and activists who raised the media profile of the Johnson case was Steve Thrasher (@thrasherxy) (seen pictured with Johnson above the day he was released from prison on July 9, 2019).
A New York Times report on Johnson's release said:
In theory, H.I.V. exposure laws are meant to encourage H.I.V.-positive individuals to disclose their status before having sex, and to practice safer sex, with the ultimate goal of preventing the spread of the virus.Congratulations to everyone who worked on this case. Johnson will be moving to and living in Indiana with a friend and says he plans to continue his education and would like to share his story as part of advocacy for HIV prevention and treatment,
But there is no evidence that these laws have reduced risky behavior or encouraged disclosure, said Catherine Hanssens, the executive director of the Center for H.I.V. Law and Policy, which provided legal support for Mr. Johnson’s case.
In the eyes of the law, an H.I.V. diagnosis is conflated with malice, she added.
“These laws effectively treat an H.I.V. diagnosis itself as evidence that the person acted with bad intentions when sex or other types of physical contact are involved in a crime,” she said.