What is HIV Criminalization?
“HIV criminalization” refers to the use of criminal law to penalize alleged, perceived, or potential HIV exposure; alleged nondisclosure of a known HIV-positive status prior to sexual contact (including acts that do not risk HIV transmission); or non-intentional HIV transmission. Sentencing in HIV criminalization cases sometimes involves decades in prison or requires sex offender registration, often in instances where no HIV transmission occurred or was extremely unlikely.
Currently, 32 states have laws that criminalize HIV—including California—despite the growing body of evidence demonstrating that these laws are an impediment to HIV prevention. While the science surrounding HIV transmission and treatment has advanced dramatically over the past 35 years, the laws have not kept pace.
California Legislation regarding HIV
Several California criminal laws specifically target people living with HIV. SB 239 (Senator Scott Wiener & Assembly Member Todd Gloria) eliminates this form of HIV exceptionalism by incorporating the current scientific understanding of HIV, addressing exposure to HIV in the same manner as exposure to other serious communicable diseases, and eliminating extra punishment for people living with HIV who engage in consensual sexual activity.
National Legislation regarding HIV
How to co-sponsor REPEAL Discrimination Act 2017
In late March, U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen reintroduced the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act 2017, which would modernize laws and policies to eliminate discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, the bill has had 33 cosponsors sign on. You can help by going to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ to find your representative’s contact information and calling to urge them to support REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act 2017.