HIV Decriminalization Bill Proposed, Encourages People To Take Responsibility & Ask Partners Their Status

Republicans are opposing the latest legislation that some say will help the decriminalization HIV, which will help curb stigma, which in turn will decrease new infections.

The L.A. Times reports:

The measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and others would make such acts a misdemeanor, a proposal that has sparked opposition from Republican lawmakers.

The same downgrade in crime level would apply to people who donate blood or semen without telling the blood or semen bank that they have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, or have tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the precursor to AIDS.

“HIV-related stigma is one of our main obstacles to reducing and ultimately eliminating infections,” Wiener said. “When you criminalize HIV or stigmatize people who have HIV it encourages people not to get tested, to stay in the shadows, not to be open about their status, not to seek treatment.”

Currently, those convicted of felonies can be sentenced up to seven years in prison.

Between 1988 and June 2014, there were 357 convictions in California for an HIV-specific felony that would have been downgraded by SB 239, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

The vast majority of convictions were in prostitution solicitation incidents in which it is unknown whether any contact beyond a conversation or an exchange of money was initiated, the researchers said. A sex worker can be charged with a felony if he or she is HIV-positive and solicits sex from another person without telling them of their infection, even if the two do not have sex, Wiener said.

He said the felony law is a vestige of a darker time during the 1980s, when there was no effective treatment for AIDS and some people were calling for putting those infected in quarantine.

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Many young, gay men I’ve encountered lately are pressing their friends and associates to take responsibility for their role in becoming HIV-positive. Discussing the disease that started out as the taboo “gay cancer” is not the same as it was many moons ago. I’m sure the people of HIV Is Not A Crime are rejoicing, but we still can’t forget the study that revealed HIV-positive people don’t know what to tell their sex partner(s) or when it should happen.

Your thoughts?

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