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It’s No Longer a Felony to Transmit HIV to Others

Recently, California has been in the news for many reasons: the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, the massive fires spreading across the state, and the amendment of the HIV bill SB-239. On October 6, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that lowers the charge for intentionally exposing a partner to HIV without telling them that you are infected with the disease from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Courtesy: cdn.newsbusters


While today’s medicine has improved greatly and people living with HIV can live without worrying about passing the disease to others, there’s still a reason to be concerned by this change. The reason being that this bill specifically states the “intentional transmission of HIV.”

The difference between “accidental” and “intentional” is the reason why many Republicans opposed SB-329. For example, Sen. Joel Anderson who voted against the bill stated, “I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said during the floor debate. “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”

There have been many cases where certain people who are infected with HIV purposefully spread it to unknowing partners like Daryll Rowe, Miguel Guerra, and Sarah Jane Porter. This isn’t to say that every single person infected with HIV is going to spread it to their sexual partners, but it’s understandable why many would oppose this bill when people who intentionally spread HIV only get 90 days in jail.

According to the CDC, there are currently 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV, and “1 out of 7 don’t know it.” Everyone is aware that HIV is a permanent and life-altering disease. It can’t be cured, and while someone can live with it today without risking they would pass it on to a sexual partner, the fact remains that HIV won’t ever go away.

So, why would California pass a bill like this?

The creators of the Bill, Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria state that their goal for SB-239 is to treat people with HIV as a “public health issue” instead of “criminals.” Wiener also argued that because the current law in California is so severe, citizens may not want to go and get tested because “without a test they cannot be charged with a felony if they expose a partner to the infection.”

Groups like Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), the ACLU, and the LGBT supported this bill stating that it’s a step forward to “modernizing California HIV laws” and will lower the “stigma and discrimination” that HIV+ people have suffered with.

However, the key point that seems to be overlooked in this bill is the intentional decision of not telling future sexual partners. While the likelihood of passing it to others, because of medicine, is extremely low, ending the discrimination of others is important to remember.  As Senator Anderson stated, “The critical word in this is “intentionally. When you intentionally put others at risk, you should have responsibility.”

This new law will be decriminalized starting in January.

Hi, I'm Samantha Gonzalez. I'm currently an Editing, Writing, and Media major at Florida State University. I aspire to one day work at a publishing house and edit manuscripts.
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