Two California politicians have written a bill to modernize HIV laws.
On Tuesday, Senator Scott Weiner and Assembly Member Todd Gloria introduced SB 239, a piece of legislation that aims to amend California’s HIV criminalization laws.
The bill, advocates say, intends to bring HIV laws in line with other serious communicable diseases. California’s current HIV laws were enacted in the 1980s and 1990s – a time that saw much fear and lack of knowledge regarding transmission of the virus.
“These laws are discriminatory, not based in science, and detrimental to our HIV prevention goals,” said Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco. “They need to be repealed. During the 1980s — the same period when some proposed quarantining people with HIV — California passed these discriminatory criminal laws and singled out people with HIV for harsher punishment than people with other communicable diseases. It's time to move beyond stigmatizing, shaming, and fearing people who are living with HIV. It's time to repeal these laws, use science-based approaches to reduce HIV transmission (instead of fear-based approaches), and stop discriminating against our HIV-positive neighbors.”
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The bill is co-sponsored by the ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Health, Equality California, Lambda Legal and Positive Women’s Network USA.
SB 239 updates California statutes with the current understanding of HIV prevention, treatment and transmission, said Gloria, a San Diego Democrat. Specifically, the bill eliminates several HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh and draconian penalties, including for activities that do not risk exposure or transmission of HIV. These changes, bill proponents claim, removes discrimination and stigma for people living with HIV while maintaining public health.
“It’s time for California to reevaluate the way it thinks about HIV and to reduce the stigma associated with the disease,” said Gloria. “Current state law related to those living with HIV is unfair because it is based on the fear and ignorance of a bygone era. With this legislation, California takes an important step to update our laws to reflect the medical advances which no longer make a positive diagnosis equal to a death sentence.”