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New California Bill Takes Knowingly Exposing Others To HIV Out Of Class B Felony

A bill signed by the previous governor of California, Jerry Brown, lowered the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection from a felony to a misdemeanor. This bill also applies to people who donate blood or tissues without informing the relevant people that they have HIV.

The bill was based on the fact that there is modern HIV medication that people living with HIV take to eliminate the possibilities of transmitting the virus. This is according to Sen. Scott Wiener, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria who authored the bill.

During the signing, Senator Scott Wiener said, “Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals. HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does.”

Supporters of the bill have argued that there needs to be intent to transmit to make this a felony. However, there have been many cases that have already been prosecuted without the evidence of intent to transmit. Some of these cases lacked evidence of contact which creates the need to change the law.

HIV is the only communicable disease for which exposure falls under a felony under California law. According to Wiener the old law discouraged people from getting tested since a person exposing a partner to HIV without knowing their own status is not charged as a felony. He said, “We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care.”

Jack Lombardi, Meet Positives CEO also weighed in on the bill, “Well, the bill cuts on both sides like a double-edged sword. If the argument is based on modern medication, we can also argue that people forget to take medication just like condoms break. It is important that there are consequences for people who knowingly expose their partners to HIV infection. I believe there is also the mental impact of being infected with HIV, and I thought mental health is a ‘thing’ these days. On the other hand, it might also encourage people to get tested but things should not stop there. People should talk about their infection before becoming intimate. This is the only way to slow down the rate of new infections.”

With time the impact of the bill will be felt and only then it will be seen if more people get tested.


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