The law was challenged under the First Amendment by Orlando Batista, an Ohio man convicted of felonious assault and sentenced to eight years in prison for failing to disclose his HIV status to his girlfriend during their five-year relationship, who he infected with the virus.
But the court found that the law did not violate free speech "because it regulates conduct and any speech compelled by the statute is incidental to the regulated conduct," wrote Justice Terrence O'Donnell in the court opinion.
Batista's attorneys also challenged the law under the Third Amendment, arguing it conflicted wit the Equal Protection Clause under the Third Amendment because there is no rational basis to differentiate HIV from other infectious, sexually transmitted diseases.
The court dismissed that argument and agreed with the state, which argued it has "a compelling interest in ensuring informed consent and in limiting the spread of HIV by means of sexual conduct."
The court also said the law doesn't prohibit an HIV-positive person from having sex or compel that person to make a public disclosure of their status.
Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, disagreed with the court's rationale.
"It makes no sense -- medically or legally -- to single out HIV for criminalization," she told the Columbus Dispatch. "We cannot allow the fears and confusion of the past to guide our current policy on HIV."
Batista's attorneys further argued that great strides have been made in HIV treatment in recent years and the disease shouldn't have the stigma it used to have during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's.
"While there is no cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS, it is not invariably fatal," they said.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Patrick Dewine criticized the argument.
"In other words, Batista argues that the health risks from infection with the HIV virus are not really all that bad," he wrote. "But the question is who gets to evaluate that risk: should the HIV-positive individual get to assess that risk for his sexual partner or should the partner get to make her own decision."
He added: "Fair to say that most -- if not all -- people would insist on the right to make that decision for themselves."
The Ohio Supreme Court's ruling could impact a pending case under the same law. Ron J. Murdock, 52, is charged with murder and felonious assault for allegedly failing to disclose his status to his former partner, Kimberly Klempner, 51, reported the Toledo Blade. Klempner died from AIDS on Feb. 5.