The Optimal Penalty for Sexually Transmitting HIV
39 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2008
We develop an endogenous signaling model of sexual behavior and testing under risk of HIV infection to determine whether current criminal laws against exposure to HIV are efficient and to identify the socially optimal law. We consider a law to be socially optimal if it induces information revelation and thus minimizes unconsensual HIV transmission. We find that current HIV-specific criminal laws in the U.S., which stipulate a single penalty for knowingly exposing another individual to risk of HIV infection, are not generally socially optimal. The socially optimal law stipulates a single penalty for knowingly or unknowingly transmitting HIV, and no penalty for exposing another individual to risk of infection without transmitting the virus. The optimal expected penalty is estimated to be approximately 1-2 years of prison.
Keywords: HIV testing, safe sex, risky sex, signaling, exposure to risk, HIV transmission, knowing and unknowing transmission, punishment, social efficiency
JEL Classification: I18, K14, D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation