Report: Women make up 2/3 of Kentucky HIV arrests

tubes with hiv test blood samples in laboratory

The Williams Institute on Monday released a report saying that women made up two-thirds of all HIV-related arrests in Kentucky.

Kentucky has two laws that criminalize HIV: The first contains misdemeanor and felony provisions for engaging in sex work while knowingly or unknowingly being HIV-positive. The second has a felony charge for people living with HIV who donate blood, tissues, or organs.

Using data obtained from the Uniform Crime Reporting Section of the Kentucky State Police, the Williams Institute found that all but one of Kentucky’s HIV-related arrests since 2006 were related to sex work. In almost half (44%) of all HIV-related arrests, the HIV-related offense was the only reason for contact with law enforcement. Women account for 62% of arrests but only 17% of people living with HIV in the state.

“A person can be arrested for sex work in the state without engaging in actual sex acts,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV criminalization analyst at the Williams Institute. “That means Kentucky law can apply a felony charge—which carries a prison term of up to five years—to people living with HIV without requiring actual transmission or even the possibility of transmission.”

Other findings from the report:

  • At least 32 people in Kentucky have been arrested for HIV-related criminal offenses since 2006.
  • Crimes related to sex work accounted for 97% of all of Kentucky’s HIV-related arrests.
  • Enforcement of HIV crimes is geographically concentrated. On a per-capita basis, Kenton County just across the border from Cincinnati had about eight times more HIV-related arrests than Jefferson County, the state’s most populous county with the city of Louisville.

Read the full report.