“We’re really excited by the bipartisan momentum that we've seen for this HIV modernization legislation,” said Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director. “This is long overdue and it's exciting to see this being addressed as a criminal justice reform issue and a public health issue.”
Five Republicans and five Democrats voted for the bill.
The current law does not take into account whether a person actually transmitted HIV. Nor does it matter if a condom was used, or if the person with HIV is on treatment and undetectable.
This new bill would revise the existing law such as defining "Substantial risk of transmission" as "a reasonable probability of disease transmission as proven by competent medical or epidemiological evidence." The bill would also update outdated language such as changing "sexual intercourse" to "sexual conduct."
Other changes include allowing a person who has HIV to donate blood, plasma, organs, skin, or other human tissue as long as a medical professional deems it appropriate. Currently, there are no exceptions so if someone did make such a donation they would be committing a third-degree felony. HB 79 would downgrade the penalty to a first-degree misdemeanor.
“This bill would help modernize Florida's HIV laws that were written in the mid-80s at the height of the HIV epidemic and haven't been updated to align with current science on treatment and prevention for HIV,” Maurer said. “I think most strikingly is that the law currently doesn't account for whether in fact there is any transmission of HIV. So under the current law, a person could be incarcerated for up to 30 years with a third-degree felony, even though there is no transmission of HIV, and scientifically there is no risk of transmission.”
The bill must also pass through the Appropriations Committee and Judiciary Committee.
Senator Jason Pizzo (D - Miami) has filed similar legislation (SB 846) in the Florida Senate.