September 8, 2017

California Assembly Votes to Repeal HIV Criminalization Laws

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The California Assembly voted Thursday to reduce the penalty for intentionally exposing someone to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Existing laws discriminate against people with HIV, the virus that causes the immune system-weakening disease AIDS, supporters of the change said.

The bill, passed 44-13, would treat HIV like other communicable diseases under California law.

It requires final Senate approval before it can go to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Currently, if a person who knows they are infected with HIV has unprotected sex without telling their partner they have the virus, they can be convicted of a felony and face years of jail time.

Intentional transmission of any other communicable disease, even a potentially deadly one like hepatitis, is a misdemeanor.

The bill, SB239, would also repeal laws imposing harsher penalties for prostitution if the offender has HIV.

Modern medical treatment has made HIV a much less devastating disease than it was when the so-called HIV-criminalization laws were passed in the 1980s and 1990s, said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a San Diego Democrat. The laws are relics of the decades-old AIDS scare, he said.

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