Authorities reportedly have been secretly collecting "the names, dates of birth, risk categories, and other demographic information of people submitting for confidential HIV testing" at community health clinics across the state, according to the investigation. Some of this data has reportedly been used to build civil or criminal actions against people living with HIV/AIDS—and those prosecutions have disproportionately targeted Black men.
The database also includes the coded identities of people who have been identified as sexual and needle-sharing partners of persons living with HIV. The state says this database is necessary to track the number of tests conducted using federal grants, as well as to determine reach and success of targeted testing programs designed to draw in people who are at high risk for HIV infection.
While MDCH claims the database does not contain personally identifiable information, a recent study, published last month in the University of California Press’ journal Social Problems, has found that some Michigan local health departments with access to the database are using it to pursue both civil actions – known as “health threat to others” actions – and criminal prosecutions against people living with HIV.
The study, authored by University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Trevor Hoppe, found that the database has been used specifically to identify and target sexual or needle-sharing partners of newly diagnosed HIV-positive persons where the infected person may not have disclosed his or her status to partners; women who are HIV-positive and have become pregnant; and HIV-positive persons who have been diagnosed with other sexually transmitted infections.
Michigan's harsh climate of HIV criminalization and University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Trevor Hoppe's excellent research were reported last August at EBONY. No surprise: Black men have "been overrepresented" in criminal prosecutions.
Michigan has emerged as one of the nation’s harshest landscapes for criminalization. In March 2010, the ACLU of Michigan filed an amicus brief in the outrageous case of a Black, HIV-positive gay man who faced bio-terrorism charges after he allegedly bit another man during a fight. The case was later dropped.
More recently, at AIDS 2012 last month in Washington D.C., data was presented that demonstrated “an overrepresentation” of Black men with female partners “and an underrepresentation of White men with male partners among those convicted” under Michigan’s HIV criminalization laws. The study was conducted by Trevor Hoppe, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Michigan.
The United States has reportedly led the world with “thousands of [HIV exposure] prosecutions”, according to the United Nations-backed Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Thirty-five states and two territories criminalize exposure and/or transmission of HIV. In Michigan, conviction is a four-year felony.