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Knowingly exposing sex partners to HIV in California is no longer a felony

Mayer Nissim October 9, 2017
National HIV testing day

National HIV testing day (Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

Is is no longer a felony in California to knowingly expose your sexual partners or potential blood recipients to HIV.

A bill – Senate Bill 239 – reducing the crime from a felony to misdemeanour was signed last week by Governor Jerry Brown.

The authors of the bill, Democratic Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Democtratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria of San Diego, noted the advances in treatment that have changed what being HIV positive means in the modern day.

AIDS Conference Holds Candlelight Vigil For Victims Of MH17
HIV is not a crime (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Individuals infected with HIV can nearly eliminate the possibility of transmission if the patient is effectively treated.

Related This ‘incredibly exciting’ data proves the gay community can win the war against HIV

“Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Wiener said.

“HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what [this bill] SB 239 does.”

The change in the law means that it now treats HIV in the same way as it does other communicable diseases.

A blood test for HIV
A blood test for HIV (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Wiener suggested that the existing law prevented people from seeking HIV tests, because only those who have been tested could be charged with a felony.

“We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care,” he added.

Gloria added: “State law will no longer discourage Californians from getting tested for HIV.

“With the Governor’s signature today, we are helping to reduce the stigma that keeps some from knowing their HIV status and getting into treatment to prevent additional infections.

“I want thank Governor Brown for signing SB 239. This action keeps California at the forefront in the fight to stop the spread of HIV.”

Melissa Goodman, LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project Director with the ACLU of Southern California, welcomed the change in the law.

“California’s outdated and draconian HIV criminal laws have disproportionately harmed people of color and transgender women,” she said.

HIV testing kit
HIV testing kit

“With the enactment of this law, our laws will now become more fair, less discriminatory, and will promote treatment and prevention rather than criminalization.”

On a broader scale, Donald Trump and Mike Pence recently proposals to gut the funding for the US’s pioneering HIV/AIDS prevention projects.

The bulk of the cuts were proposed to the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was set up by former President George W Bush to tackle the AIDS crisis.

PEPFAR is one of the largest providers of funding for global projects battling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In the UK, there has been a massive drop in the number of gay and bisexual men who have been diagnosed with HIV.

New figures show a 21 per cent fall in new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) from 3,750 during 2015, to 2,810 in 2016.

More: California, Can't Pass It On, HIV, senate bill, US

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