Stigma Surrounding HIV Lands Young Man in Prison for Life


The stigma surrounding HIV has landed a young man in prison for life. In the city of St. Charles, Missouri, on Friday, May 15, a former college wrestler named Michael Johnson (nicknamed Tiger Mandingo), was convicted on five counts. These counts vary from recklessly exposing partners to HIV, recklessly infecting a partner with the virus, and attempting to infect partners with the virus. With the sentencing hearing scheduled for July 13, Judge Jon Cunningham will determine whether Johnson will serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively. The length of time Johnson could serve would be as much as 60 and a half years in prison.

Six partners of Johnson have testified against him while several more did not want to come forward. More than 30 sex videos on Johnson’s personal computer were used during the first phase of the trial. With only one video being consensual, nearly all 30 are without the use of a condom, and none of them exhibit Johnson revealing that he is HIV positive. The State law of Missouri demands that every HIV-positive person divulge their status to all sexual partners. The law does not change if an infected person takes medication to cut the danger of passing the virus, or whether he or she practices safe sex.

HIVDue to recent development in the field of health sciences and medicines, many individuals are now considering HIV as a manageable disease, and not a death sentence. Some of the people responding to this case said that it takes two to have sex, and that Johnson’s partners have the responsibility to maintain their own sexual health. Therefore, concluding that Johnson’s conviction and sentence is harsh and inhuman. This way, the stigma surrounding HIV has landed a young man in prison for his entire life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in the U.S., HIV and AIDS excessively plague the black community compared to other ethnic and racial groups. Accounting for more than half of the new infections between bisexual and gay men, young black men are the ones who are affected the most. One critical way to help the approximately 74,000 black people, who live with undiagnosed HIV, is the urgent need to get them tested in order for them to learn about their infection. Early diagnosis and ongoing treatment and medical care are crucial for effective HIV therapy. Proper treatment can increase a victim’s life expectancy allowing them to live healthier lives, and reduce the likelihood of them transmitting the virus to others.

Johnson, now 23-years-old, committed this crime when he could be barely considered a teenager. The fact that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars for not being truthful, and doing irresponsible things has many people outraged. Having contracted the HIV virus himself from someone who did not disclose it either makes many people feel sympathetic towards the young man as the stigma surrounding this infection has landed him in prison for life. However, the fact that Johnson arranged a screening and tested positive for HIV, just weeks before the detrimental connection, convinces many individuals of Johnson’s disregard for other people’s well-being.

By Ankur Sinha

NY Daily News-Michael Johnson conviction shows fear spreads faster than HIV
CDC-National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
BuzzFeed-“Tiger Mandingo” Sentenced To At Least 30 Years In HIV Case

Photo by NIAID’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License

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