Calif. Bill Would Reduce Punishment for Not Revealing HIV Status

Lawmakers want to change felony to misdemeanour
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2017 8:08 AM CDT
Calif. Bill Would Reduce Punishment for Not Revealing HIV Status
Activists display red ribbons, symbol of HIV-AIDS awareness, as they pose for photographers during an awareness campaign on World AIDS Day,   (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Democratic lawmakers in California say they want to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV by changing the law. Under a bill championed by state Sen. Scott Weiner, it would no longer be a felony for a person with HIV to have unprotected sex without disclosing their status, the Los Angeles Times reports. "HIV-related stigma is one of our main obstacles to reducing and ultimately eliminating infections," Wiener said. “When you criminalize HIV or stigmatize people who have HIV it encourages people not to get tested, to stay in the shadows, not to be open about their status, not to seek treatment." The bill would make not disclosing HIV status, which currently carries a penalty up to seven years in prison, a misdemeanour

Some 357 people were convicted of the crime in California between 1988 and 2014, almost all in cases involving prostitution, according to a study cited by the Times.Knowingly transmitting other diseases, including herpes and hepatitis, is a misdemeanour under California law. The bill's supporters say modern drugs mean HIV and AIDS are no longer a death sentence, or even easily transmissible through sex if someone is on the right medication. Republican state lawmakers oppose the change. "If I infect someone with a disease from which they’ll never recover, and I do it purposefully, should I not be punished to the fullest extent of the law? I believe you should be," state Sen. Joel Anderson tells the Sacramento Bee. (More HIV stories.)

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