California lowers penalty for knowingly exposing partners to HIV
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill that lowers the crime to a misdemeanor, CNN reports. Starting January 1, 2018, it will no longer be a major crime in California to knowingly expose a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Friday that lowers the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The law previously punished people who knowingly exposed or infected others with HIV by up to eight years in prison. This new legislation will lower jail time to a maximum of six months.
The new law also reduces the penalty for knowingly donating HIV-infected blood from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Bill sponsors Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, both Democrats, argued California law was outdated and stigmatized people living with HIV, especially given recent advancements in medicine. Evidence has shown that a person with HIV who undergoes regular treatment has a negligible chance of spreading the infection to others through sexual contact.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that HIV-positive people taking effective medication to suppress the virus cannot pass it on through sex, and that it will update its guidelines accordingly.
"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."
Since the previous law did not require a risk of infection, meaning people on HIV medication could still be charged with a felony, Wiener told CNN it was "extreme and discriminatory."
Gloria released a statement Friday saying the bill will put the state "at the forefront in the fight to stop the spread of HIV."
Many Republicans staunchly opposed SB 239, saying it could lead to an increase in HIV infections.