California Lawmakers Seek to End Felony for Intentionally Infecting People with HIV

ashley.rae | March 10, 2017

California lawmakers are looking to repeal a law that makes it a felony to intentionally infect someone with HIV, claiming it is “very discriminatory.”

The Associated Press reports the move, spearheaded by San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, will make it a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, to “intentionally expose someone to HIV.”

According to the bill, it is currently a felony, punishable by three, five or eight years in jail, to knowingly infect someone with HIV (emphasis added):

Existing law makes it a felony punishable by imprisonment for 3, 5, or 8 years in the state prison to expose another person to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by engaging in unprotected sexual activity when the infected person knows at the time of the unprotected sex that he or she is infected with HIV, has not disclosed his or her HIV-positive status, and acts with the specific intent to infect the other person with HIV.

The bill would repeal those punishments and make it a misdemeanor to infect someone with HIV on purpose.

The Associated Press notes that while intentionally infecting someone with HIV is a felony in California, infecting someone with a disease like hepatitis in only a misdemeanor.

Wiener justified his bill to reduce the penalty for intentionally infecting someone with HIV by saying, “These laws were passed at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when there was enormous fear and ignorance and misinformation around HIV.”

“It's time for California to lead and to repeal these laws to send a clear signal that we are going to take a science-based approach to HIV, not a fear-based approach,” he continued.

Wiener also called the current law surrounding HIV to be “very discriminatory.”

KPCC reports Wiener said, “Having HIV does not make you a criminal and we shouldn’t be singling out HIV among all infectious diseases for harsher treatment.”

“It’s very discriminatory,” he claimed, adding, “We’re not in the 1980s anymore. We need to base our laws on HIV on science and good public health — not on fear and stereotypes.”

LGBT Weekly reports another sponsor of the bill, San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu, says the current laws are based on “homophobia.”

“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand the need to get outdated and unscientific laws based on homophobia and fear off the books,” Chiu said. “These laws criminalize and stigmatize people with HIV, and they must be updated.”

So it's "homophobic," apparently, to punish people with a felony for intentionally giving someone a disease that destroys their immune system.

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