A 22 year old gay man has been charged in the US with knowingly passing on HIV, after he had unprotected sex with over 30 people.

In October, Michael Johnson, a former college wrestler with social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, MySpace Instagram, was charged with exposing sexual partners to HIV. Police later discovered videos of him having unprotected sex.

His social media have all been accruing hundreds of homophobic and racist comments.

Sean Strub, Executive Director at The Sero Project, told So So Gay: ‘Johnson has been accused of having sex without disclosing his status, having “unprotected” sex as seen on the videotapes and of possibly transmitting HIV to one person. The reference to four people only includes one who even claims he got HIV from him.

‘There is so much that is not known about this case. Was he on treatment and even capable of transmitting the virus? Maybe he had an undetectable viral load. Does the virus the person got infected with look anything like the virus Johnson has? (Phylogenetic testing can’t prove it was transmitted from one person to another, but it can disprove such transmission.) How do we know Johnson knew he had HIV? What was he told my his medical providers or other counsellors about disclosing? How knowledgeable is he about how HIV is transmitted?’

‘The suggestion that he may have infected 30 people is, I am almost certain, totally ridiculous.’

‘The criminalisation of non-disclosure helps no one and is damaging to public health because of how it discourages people at risk from getting tested for HIV (you can’t be prosecuted if you haven’t been tested) and sows distrust of public health officials and prevention programs. A growing body of evidence supports the view strongly held by many in the field that criminalisation is actually worsening the epidemic.

Commenter Shane B Johnson said on the KMOV story that he did not see the people who had unprotected sex with Michael Johnson as victims. ‘So when are the 31 men who KNOWINGLY had UNPROTECTED sex with a random stranger going to be charged with reckless endangerment as well,’ he asked. ‘They have JUST as much of an obligation to protect their sexual health as the HIV positive person they DELIBERATELY had raw sex with.’

If convicted, Johnson faces life behind bars. However, legal advisers say that, in the UK at least, it must be proven that someone got HIV from that person in order for any legal action to be successful.

Most of the videos were shot in his campus bedroom at Lindenwood University, where he was a student. Says Strub: ‘Videotaping one’s sex partners without their knowledge I assume is a crime in Missouri, but that shouldn’t be conflated with his HIV status.’


This story was last updated on 21 January at 20:24 to include comments from Sean Strub.