Alright, I'll join the shit storm
Dan Savage makes a proposal to help curb HIV infections due to neglectful sexual behavior this week that he knows damn well is going to cause a lot of people to go bananas.
No, my radical plan to curb unsafe sex among gay men is modeled on a successful program that encourages sexual responsibility among straight men: child-support payments. A straight man knows that if he knocks a woman up, he's on the hook for child-support payments for 18 years. He's free to have as much sex as he likes and as many children as he cares to, but he knows in the back of his mind that his quality of life will suffer if he's irresponsible.
So why not drug-support payments? If the state can go after deadbeat dads and make them pay child support why can't it go after deadbeat infectors and make them pay drug support? Now that would be radical. Infect someone with HIV out of malice or negligence and the state will come after you for half the cost of the meds the person you infected is going to need. (The man you infected is 50 percent responsible for his own infection.)
I'm not going to go into all the various reasons that this may or may not be a good plan that are sure to be in all the letters flooding Savage's mailbox this week. I personally agree that anyone who knows he is HIV positive and deliberately has unprotected sex with people without disclosing his HIV status to his partners should face some kind of punishment. But aligning that punishment with child support is not the way to go about it, because that implies that child support is punishment.
Child support is not punishment. Child support is taking legal responsibility for your children when you don't live with them. Period. Really, it has zip to do with sex or punishments for sex or anything like that. You are legally obligated to take responsibility for children you conceive. There are a couple cases out now that are making it clear that it's not the sex that is the issue, but the children and who made 'em. You are obligated to pay child support for the same reason you are obligated not to lock up the kids in your house in the basement--your responsibility as a parent is to take care of your children. Someone's got to take care of the kids, and we look first to the parents.
Children are not a punishment for sex. Dan Savage, who has an adopted child, needs to think about this more thoroughly. Treating child support payments as the equivalent "punishment" for male sex to women's "punishment" of having to bear raise children is the sort of thinking that has given birth to the men's rights assholes and anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion thinking. HIV is a public health problem, but children are the responsibility, not the problem, of their family.
Of course, since HIV is a public health problem that is a fiscal nightmare, I understand Savage's desire to get some of the cold, hard cash needed to deal with the problem out of the hands of those who make the problem worse. This urge I sympathize with, so maybe a superior punishment could be docking wages to go into a general fund to pay for medication for people who can't afford it? I don't think this is going to generate much in the way of money, though, because it's probably pretty hard to prove that someone's neglect was deliberate or malicious.
Edited to add: Riggsveda's comment below made me think about this even more. Someone who is supposed to receive child support payments and doesn't because the guy's a deadbeat is in a tough spot--trying to figure out food and clothes and rent. Someone who is relying on that money for life-saving medications may be in an even worse spot. We do not need to foisting more responsibility for keeping people alive, fed and clothed onto individual citizens who fall down on their duties all too often.