Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio

HIV-related criminal incidents from 2000 to 2022
February 2024

This study examines the history of HIV criminalization in Ohio and analyzes key trends in the enforcement of the state’s HIV-related criminal laws between 2000 and 2022 using data from the Ohio Incident-Based Reporting System (OIBRS) and HIV-related criminal court cases.

Ohio has six laws that criminalize the conduct of PLWH. All of Ohio’s HIV crimes carry felony penalties.
The state's HIV-related criminal laws are disproportionately impact women and Black people.
Cuyahoga, Franklin, Montgomery, and Summit Counties account for over two-thirds of all alleged HIV-related criminal incidents.
Data Points
of PLWH in Ohio are women
of HIV-related arrests are women


This report provides an up-to-date look at the enforcement of HIV criminal laws in Ohio. The Williams Institute analyzed data from Ohio’s Incident-Based Reporting System (OIBRS) about HIV-related criminal incidents between 2000 and 2022. We also analyzed data on HIV-related criminal court cases between 2009 and 2022 from the Cuyahoga County courts system collected by that county’s Board of Public Health.

Ohio has six laws that criminalize the conduct of people living with HIV (PLWH), including having sex without disclosing one’s HIV status, exposing others to bodily fluids more generally, engaging in sex work, and donating blood. Our analysis revealed that there have been at least 530 allegations of HIV-related criminal offenses across 447 separate incidents between 2000 and 2022 in Ohio. None of these incidents required actual transmission, the intent to transmit, or even conduct likely to transmit HIV in order to sustain a conviction.

The findings presented in this report corroborate those from a recent study by staff at the Equality Ohio Education Fund and the Ohio Health Modernization Movement.1 Taken as a whole, the two reports find that from 2000 to the present, there have been hundreds of arrests and prosecutions for HIV-related crimes in Ohio. Together, they show a pattern of widespread and continued enforcement of HIV crimes. Enforcement is primarily concentrated in just a handful of counties across the state and disproportionately affects Black people and women in Ohio.


  • There have been at least 530 separate allegations of an HIV-related criminal offense across 447 criminal incidents in Ohio since the year 2000.2
    • Of these allegations, the crime of having consensual sex without disclosing one’s HIV status accounted for nearly half (48%) of the total.
    • HIV-related criminal allegations related to sex work (19%) and bodily fluid exposure (21%) each accounted for nearly one-fifth of the total.
    • There were fewer allegations related to non-consensual sex (11%) or blood donation (1%).
  • Despite significant advances in HIV treatment and prevention, people continue to be arrested and prosecuted for HIV-related offenses in Ohio to the present.
    • In fact, there has been an upward trend since 2000 in allegations of the crimes of nondisclosure before consensual sex and bodily fluid exposure.
    • Despite the U.S. blood supply being safe for decades, people in Ohio continue to be arrested for alleged blood donation crimes.
  • HIV criminal enforcement was highly geographically concentrated. Four counties—Cuyahoga, Franklin, Montgomery, and Summit—accounted for two-thirds (68%) of all HIV-related incidents.
    • Those four counties were home to just over half (53%) of all PLWH in the state and a little less than a third (32%) of all Ohioans.
  • Excluding the Cuyahoga County cases, where this information is unavailable, 50% of all HIV-related incidents originated with three law enforcement agencies: Columbus Police Department (25%), Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (13%), and Akron Police Department (12%).
    • Ninety-four percent of loitering and solicitation-related incidents originated from the same three law enforcement agencies: Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (45%), Akron Police Department (27%), and Columbus Police Department (22%).
  • Of the 333 unique HIV-related criminal incidents in the OIBRS data, 141 included data indicating that an arrest for an HIV-related offense had occurred. In total, there were 144 individuals arrested across these incidents.
    • Women were over-represented in HIV-related arrests: 48% of people arrested, but only 21% of PLWH in Ohio.
      • Further, women were 84% of all sex work-related arrests, and sex work-related arrests were nearly half (47%) of all incidents with an associated HIV-related arrest.
    • Black people were 44% of people arrested for allegations of an HIV-related offense, although they were only 13% of the state population and 44% of PLWH in Ohio. In contrast, white Ohioans were 56% of those arrested, 42% of PLWH, and 78% of the state’s population. OIBRS does not include race or ethnicity data for other groups.
      • About two-thirds (67%) of sex work-related arrests were among white individuals.
      • White individuals were also about two-thirds (67%) of bodily fluid exposure arrests.
      • In contrast, Black people were about two-thirds (65%) of felonious assault arrests.
    • Breaking out the demographic data by race and sex reveals that women, especially white women, were over-represented among HIV-related arrests when compared to their share of PLWH in the state. White women were 34% of HIV-related arrests but only 7% of PLWH. More specifically, patterns of enforcement for different HIV crimes in Ohio impact groups by race and sex differently:
      • 61% of sex work-related arrests were of white women,
      • 58% of felonious assault arrests were of Black men, and
      • 67% of harassment by bodily fluid arrests were of white men.
  • We have details for 274 individual victims across 253 unique HIV-related incidents. An additional 49 incidents listed “Society/Public” as the “Victim” in “crimes against society.”
    • 21 individual victims were identified as police officers (of which 20 were bodily fluid exposure incidents and one was a felonious assault incident).
    • The remaining 253 individual victims were private individuals.
    • All of the loitering and solicitation incidents were reported as crimes against society, as were all but one of the prostitution incidents. This means there was no actual person identified as a victim in all but one of the sex work-related incidents.
    • Likewise, all six blood donation incidents were also classified as crimes against society.
  • Neither data source for this report includes data about the sexual orientation or gender identity of arrestees or victims. However, for the felonious assault incidents, which involve sexual conduct, only 16% clearly indicate that the alleged sexual behavior occurred between people of the same sex.
  • For OIBRS incidents with a reported outcome (and were no longer pending investigation), two-thirds (66%) resulted in formal charges.

None of Ohio’s HIV-related criminal statutes require actual transmission, the intent to transmit, or even the possibility of HIV transmission to sustain a conviction. The enforcement data confirms that many of Ohio’s HIV-related criminal allegations are based on conduct that could never transmit HIV, such as spitting, loitering, and types of touching or sexual conduct that cannot transmit HIV.

Download the full report

Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio

Mozynski, K. & Delaney, B. (2024). The Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Ohio: Analysis of Court Cases from 2014 to 2020. Their report is the first comprehensive look at HIV-related criminal cases across all 88 counties in Ohio.

We are unable to say how many unique individuals have been arrested because the data have been de-identified.