A group of California lawmakers no longer want people to face up to seven years in prison for choosing not to inform their sex partners about their HIV infection before exposing them to the disease during unprotected intercourse. The bill, which would reduce the crime to a misdemeanor, would also apply to people who donate to blood or semen banks without making their HIV or AIDS status known, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Republicans have already shown opposition towards the measure, but Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) believes that it has the potential to shift attitudes toward the virus.
“HIV-related stigma is one of our main obstacles to reducing and ultimately eliminating infections,” said Wiener, who wrote the legislation with Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and Assemblymen Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “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.”
The group insists the felony law in place is discriminatory, considering no other serious infectious disease is treated in the same manner. “Current state law related to those living with HIV is unfair because it is based on the fear and ignorance of a bygone era,” Gloria said. “With this legislation, California takes an important step to update our laws to reflect the medical advances which no longer make a positive diagnosis equal to a death sentence.”
However, Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) thinks diluted consequences would only encourage people to continue spreading the disease. “Because they are so disrespectful of the people they are willing to engage in a sexual act with and risk their life, that is the reason why they need to go to prison,” he said. “They can’t be trusted in society as a responsible person.”
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