Student Who Faced 30 Year Sentence Under HIV Criminalization Law Gets Parole

A Missouri College wrestler who faced 30 years behind bars for “recklessly” exposing sexual partners to HIV has been granted parole, his lawyer confirmed to Buzzfeed News.

Michael Johnson, nicknamed “Tiger Mandingo,” was sentenced in 2013 under controversial a HIV criminal-exposure law in Missouri.

Johnson was found guilty on five counts of criminal exposure: three of recklessly exposing partners to HIV, one of recklessly infecting a partner with HIV and one of attempting to recklessly infect a partner with HIV.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services requires that those who test HIV-positive sign a document acknowledging criminal liability punishable by 10-30 years or life in prison for creating a risk of infecting another personwith the virus through sex, needle sharing, biting or other established means of transmitting the virus.”

Six men testified that Johnson failed to disclose his status before having unprotected sex with them, according to NewNowNext.

But in 2016, Johnson won an appeal on the basis that prosecutors withheld evidence. He took a 10-year plea deal and will be released next October.

Twenty-four states have laws on the books that require HIV-positive people to disclose their status to sexual partners.

HIV/ AIDS advocates have long argued that those HIV criminalization laws disproportionately target already marginalized communities and do little to nothing to prevent infections.

National HIV/AIDS organization AIDS United argues that such laws advance misconceptions about risk and fuel stigma about people living with HIV.

“By placing those who are aware of their HIV-positive status at increased risk of prosecution, HIV criminal laws contradict public health goals seeking to increase the number of people who know their HIV status,” the organization says, on its website.

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Kate Sosin 

Kate Sosin is a an award-winning trans reporter and former associate editor of Chicago's Windy City Times.

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