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CA penalty lowered for HIV positive people who knowingly infect others

CA passes law which lowers penalty for those knowingly infecting others with HIV
Photo credit:
CNN

Starting on January 1, 2018, knowingly exposing a partner to HIV without disclosing your infection status will no longer be a felony.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 239 on September 11 which reduces the charges to a misdemeanor reports CNN.

Sentencing will carry with it a six-month jail sentence instead of eight years.

The penalty is also reduced for positive people who donate blood.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D) both sponsored the bill. They argue that California law is outdated and unfairly stigmatizes people with HIV even though modern medicine greatly reduces the risk.

“The most effective way to reduce HIV infections is to destigmatize HIV,” Wiener told CNN. “To make people comfortable talking about their infection, get tested, get into treatment.”

The previous law was sweeping in that it also offered those with HIV on medication the same felony charges. Weiner said it was, “extreme and discriminatory.”

Gloria says it will be his mission to stop further HIV infections throughout the state.

Although this may be good news to some, many Republicans have opposed SB 239.

Sen. Jeff Stone (R), who is also a pharmacist, said one of the problems is that people sometimes become lax with taking their medications.

“If you don’t take your AIDS medications and you allow for some virus to duplicate and show a presence, then you are able to transmit that disease to an unknowing partner,” said Stone.

Sen. Joel Anderson (R) also was not for the change in legislation.

“The critical word in this is ‘intentionally,'” Anderson said in September. “When you intentionally put others at risk, you should have responsibility.”

Despite these criticisms, some LGBT organizations are celebrating the passage of the law. 

Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR) is a coalition of organizations who want to end the social stigma that comes with being HIV positive. 

“This is an important bill that modernizes California’s HIV laws,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “It will really advance public health and reduce stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV have suffered.”