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Medical College Researchers to Study Effects of Criminalization of HIV Exposure

Feb. 26, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR) has received a one year, $50,000 grant to study the tensions the criminalization of HIV exposure creates in public health, and the resulting impact on clients. This work was commissioned by the Public Health Law Research Program, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Carol Galletly, J.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at CAIR, is the primary investigator. Zita Lazzarini, J.D., M.P.H., director of the division of public health law and bioethics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, is co-principal investigator.

The goals of the study are to identify where and how the criminalization of HIV exposure has influenced health department policies and programs, and to examine how staff members in public health departments resolve the tensions between criminal law, public health authority, and patient-centered care when considering the prospect of an HIV-positive client knowingly exposing others to HIV.

“Criminal law and public health law have markedly different philosophies and approaches to HIV prevention. Those often mutually exclusive approaches result in people not being tested, and individuals who are HIV-positive unknowingly transmitting the virus. This study will examine some of the basic questions about the impact of the law on public health,” said Dr. Galletly.

This study is one of five being funded by PHLR as part of its new Strategic and Targeted Research Program. The goal of PHLR is to promote the effective use of law to improve public health.

The Center for AIDS Intervention Research at MCW is one of five HIV prevention research centers in the United States funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. CAIR’s missions are to conceptualize, conduct, and scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of new intervention strategies to prevent HIV infection in populations vulnerable to the disease. CAIR’s research also develops improved strategies to promote health and alleviate adverse mental health consequences among persons living with HIV. CAIR is committed to disseminating its findings both to the scientific community and to public health providers so they benefit from Center research.

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