NCSD Opposes Proposals to Criminalize STD Exposure
A statement from the National Coalition of STD Directors
April 2, 2021
The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) has learned of new proposals being introduced in state legislatures that would create criminal penalties for people who knowingly expose others to STDs. NCSD stands together with nearly all major public health organizations in opposing the criminalization of STD transmission behaviors and urges state policymakers to reject these counterproductive and harmful approaches.
Decades of experience with HIV criminalization have proven that these laws do not work by any measure. Far from reducing STD transmission, they stand in the way of effective public health approaches by perpetuating stigma and reducing people’s willingness to seek out testing and care. They also create another basis for singling out members of Black and other minority communities, who are disproportionately affected by STDs because of socioeconomic factors beyond their individual control. For these and other reasons, America’s new National STI Strategic Plan demands (Strategy 4.1.5, page 35) the re-examination of laws that criminalize STD-related behaviors.
Instead of resorting to criminalization, lawmakers nationwide can support effective, evidence-based STD prevention by reversing decades of crippling funding cuts to public health programs. STD testing and treatment have been massively disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to rebuild in a way that truly serves the people most affected by these common, but preventable, diseases.