March 22, 2018

Penalty Reduced For Intentionally Exposing Some To HIV

10 October 2017, 05:50 | Lena Norman

Penalty Reduced For Intentionally Exposing Some To HIV

Knowingly exposing others to HIV will no longer be a felony in California

The bill, SB 239, which was approved by the Democrat-controlled state legislature in September and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, will lower the charges for these acts from a felony to a misdemeanor when the law goes into effect in 2018. The measure also applies to those who give blood without telling the blood bank that they are HIV-positive. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria argued that California law was outdated and stigmatized people living with HIV.

In a statement, Wiener said, "We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care". Prior to passing the bill, under California law, HIV was the only communicable disease for which deliberate exposure was deemed a felony offense, which carries a penalty of between three and eight years in federal prison.

Senator believes law before enaction of SB 239 forces HIV patient to create an environment where they're not ready for the test.

California's new law comes as recently developed drugs for preventing and treating HIV have significantly extended life expectancies and lowered transmission rates in the HIV-positive community.

However, not everyone is convinced of the wisdom of such a decision.

State Sen. Jeff Stone voted against the bill and strongly expressed his disapproval in September when the Senate voted on it.

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Beginning in the late 1980s and at the height of the HIV epidemic, lawmakers passed several laws criminalizing otherwise legal behaviors of people living with HIV and added HIV-related penalties to existing crimes.

Between 1988 and 2014, at least 800 people were either arrested, charged, or otherwise came into contact with the criminal justice system in relation to their HIV status, a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles found, the Associated Press reports. "It is irresponsible not to disclose the possibility of a life-altering infection", said Anderson. It also brings California statutes up to date with the current understanding of HIV prevention, treatment and transmission.

'With his signature, Governor Brown has moved California's archaic HIV laws out of the 1980s and into the 21 century, ' said Zbur.

Others in the group of more than 150 to support the bill included the California Medical Association, the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the California Women's Law Center and the ACLU of California. "That's what SB 239 does", according to LA Times. "A lot of what was behind this was basically looking at the laws to see how we could improve public health and modernizing these laws, so HIV is treated the same".

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