Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Valerian J. Derlega

Committee Member

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Konstanin Cigularov


Many U.S. states have passed HIV non-disclosure laws that criminalize sexual behavior on the part of HIV-positive persons who do not disclose their HIV status to sexual partners. This study broadly focused on the impact of two major philosophical approaches for meting out punishment to law violators: the just deserts and the deterrence perspectives. The study examined how these two approaches may influence laypersons’ motivations for punishing someone with HIV who violates an HIV non-disclosure law. In addition, the study examined how knowledge or no knowledge of an HIV non-disclosure law by the law violator influenced punishment recommendations. A 2 (Harm) X 2 (Detectability) X 2 (HIV Law Knowledge) ANOVA design was utilized, with punishment recommendations (i.e., prison sentence and fine) as the dependent measures (N = 224). Research questions pertaining to potential explanations (e.g., moral outrage, specific incapacitation, specific deterrence) for participants’ punishment assignments were also examined. Results indicated that the most important motivation for meting out punishment was the harm caused by the HIV non-disclosure law violator. The detectability of the law violation and knowledge of the HIV non-disclosure law did not influence punishment recommendations. The findings are consistent with the just deserts perspective that retribution for the harm done by the HIV non-disclosure is a major motivator for punishing violations of the law.


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