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People with HIV must alert sex partners, Ohio Supreme Court rules

A state law that requires HIV-positive people to disclose their status to their partners before sex is constitutional, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a unanimous decision.

The case raised questions about free speech, consensual sex and infectious diseases. While other states began criminalizing non-disclosure in the late 80s, Ohio adopted the law in 2000.

Orlando Batista didn’t tell his girlfriend that he is HIV-positive when they began having sex in November 2013 and she was later diagnosed with it. In Hamilton County, Batista was indicted on one count of felonious assault, based on the disclosure law. Batista pleaded no contest, was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison.

He later challenged the constitutionality of the law based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Related: Ohio Supreme Court to decide if those with HIV have to disclose it

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Justice Terrence O’Donnell, writing the majority opinion, said that the law regulates conduct, not speech, so it does not violate the First Amendment. The court noted that similar rulings were made by the supreme courts in Missouri and Illinois.

Also, it relates to the state’s legitimate interest in preventing the spread of HIV to uninformed sexual partners so it does not violate the constitutional rights to equal protection, O’Donnell wrote.

Related: Police: HIV-positive woman arrested again on prostitution related charges

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