It's about time

California makes major step in decriminalizing HIV, lowers penalty for exposing partners to virus

California just took a major step in the (achingly slow) process of decriminalizing HIV.

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill lowering the “crime” of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without first disclosing one’s status from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Assemblyman Todd Gloria of San Diego, who argued that drugs like PrEP and PEP allow people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives. They also nearly eliminate the possibility of transmission.

Related: The response to Charlie Sheen’s latest HIV infection rumors proves the stigma is alive and well

In fact, just a few days ago, the CDC announced people living with HIV and taking the effective medication to suppress the virus cannot pass it on through sex, and that it will be updating its guidelines accordingly.

“Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Sen. Scott Wiener said in a statement shortly after Brown signed the bill.

HIV criminalization laws first emerged in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic.

According to the CDC:

A total of 67 laws explicitly focused on persons living with HIV had been enacted in 33 states. These laws vary as to what behaviors are criminalized or result in additional penalties. In 24 states, laws require persons who are aware that they have HIV to disclose their status to sexual partners and 14 states require disclosure to needle-sharing partners. Twenty-five states criminalize one or more behaviors that pose a low or negligible risk for HIV transmission.

But many have argued these laws ignore decades of medical science, fail to actually reduce infection rates, and disproportionately punish black men, as HIV rates are higher among people of color.

Both the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have publicly condemned laws criminalizing HIV.

“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,” Wiener said.

Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, says the law “is not only fair, but it’s good public health,” and will be “good for all Californians.”

“With his signature, Governor Brown has moved California’s archaic HIV laws out of the 1980s and into the 21st century,” Zbur said.

Related: Ex-college wrestler gets 10 years in bogus HIV transmission case

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45 Comments

  • Brody

    Saying that HIV drugs “nearly eliminate the possibility of transmission” is like saying it’s safer to shoot just one bullet at someone as opposed to all six in the chamber, because, hey, they’ll likely survive a single gunshot wound, right? Or, just a single bullet might miss, right? Wrong—it’s still Russian roulette.

    This sounds to me like a great big rationalization by selfish people to excuse their reckless transmission of a potentially deadly disease simply because they find condoms inconvenient.

    • Juanjo

      Oh look the troll “expert on everything” is back to spread his BS. What is your degree in this week?

    • Stache

      You really need to sign in with both your user names today? Everyone already knows you’re one in the same eh Mo bro/MHoffman.

  • mhoffman953

    This sounds ridiculous that someone who knowingly has HIV and has the intention of infecting someone but fails to tell their partner or fails to tell a blood bank will receive a lesser punishment. That’s like saying you can purposefully and willfully infect people with HIV and get the same punishment as a parking ticket

    • Juanjo

      Miss Hoffman – that is quite a straw man there, girl. A parking ticket in an infraction not a misdemeanor. Of course despite your drivel and incomprehensible phrasing, if one knew they were HIV+ and had the specific intention of infecting someone then they have committed a battery. Likewise if one deliberately tried to donate blood to a blood bank with an intent to infect someone that is also punishable. Of course the idea of someone trying to do that is amusing. All blood donated is screened so unless you were a complete idiot or grasping at straw to make an analogy like Miss Hoffman I would find this unlikely.

    • Juanjo

      For example Miss Hoffman, California has a law on knowingly transmitting diseases such a Hep C, other STDs etc. Anyone who has any kind of infectious, communicable, or contagious disease in California commits a crime if that person exposes him or herself to others. This crime is punishable as a misdemeanor offense. You also commit this crime if you knowingly expose someone else whom you know has such a disease to other people. (California Health and Safety Code section 120290.)

      As for your bull crap example of infecting the blood supply that is covered as well.

    • mhoffman953

      @Juanjo

      But California is decriminalizing the intentional spread of HIV. Sure, it’s still a crime but it’s a significantly lesser crime.

      According to Juanjo, it’s not so bad that you intentionally and purposely infect someone with HIV. According to grandpa Juanjo, it should just be the same as battery, essentially the same as just punching someone.

      I guess it’s ok to now force your sexual partner to live a life where they must buy extremely expensive medication that they must take every single day of their life, have an extremely weakened immune system forcing them to be extra careful in hospitals, day cares, or other high bacteria areas but they could fall deathly ill, have the potential to suffer from wasting syndrome as they get older, be forced to miss work for multiple doctor visits and exams, and many more costly and burdensome lifestyle changes because their partner purposefully and intentionally infected them with HIV. According to old man Juanjo, all of that is fine and shouldn’t be a felony, it should just hold the same punishment as if you drive without a license or punch someone

    • Heywood Jablowme

      @mhoffman953: But if someone has never been tested for HiV at all, they can’t be charged with ‘knowingly” exposing anyone.

      That’s the MAIN problem with these extreme criminalization laws: they have the effect of discouraging HIV testing in the first place. Someone who’s HIV+ positive but doesn’t (officially) know it, is NOT being treated for it and therefore is often extremely infectious.

    • Dymension

      Personally, I am not happy about this at all. If you know you are HIV positive it is hard to say it was not your intent to harm someone. I had a relationship once with a guy who was positive and had not told me. It was he that suggested first that we practice safer sex. Later, when he confessed, he told me he wanted to make sure I didn’t get infected.

      I don’t care what your story is, how you are depressed, you were dealt a terrible blow, blah, blah, blah, if you are going to have relations with someone, you don’t knowingly have unsafe sex with them. If you do and they get infected, then you need to do time.

    • mhoffman953

      @HeywoodJablowme

      That argument is protecting the party who is negligent and ignoring the innocent party. I find it absurd that you consider intentionally infecting someone with HIV and getting a felony for it as “extreme criminalization”. I guess willingly giving someone a virus that will cost them over $350,000 for their lifetime to treat, shortening someone’s lifespan, impacting their future plans to have children, and causing lifelong emotional trauma should be equal to excessive speeding according to you.

      You’re siding with the perpetrator in your argument. No one is saying HIV+ people shouldn’t have sex. People are saying that people should properly take care of their sexual health and intentionally being negligent results in a punishment. If someone is negligent in maintaining the brakes on their car and the brakes suddenly fail and permanently disable someone, the driver is responsible for properly maintaining his equipment. The burden is not on the pedestrian who is now disabled

    • Heywood Jablowme

      @mhoffman953: Did you bother to read the article?:

      “just a few days ago, the CDC announced people living with HIV and taking the effective medication to suppress the virus cannot pass it on through sex….”

      I’m saying the exact opposite of what you’re accusing me of. People who took the test and are being treated for HIV can’t spread it.

      In reality HIV is spread by people who never took the test. Ironically, someone may *suspect* they have it but if they’ve never been tested these laws DON’T WORK at all because then they can’t be accused of “intentionally” doing anything.

    • mhoffman953

      @HeywoodJablowme

      I did read the article and I did read the new provisions of the law

      The people you are mentioning are not people the previous and existing law applies to. The purpose of the law is to punish those who know they status and with this knowledge use the HIV virus as a weapon to intentionally harm other people.

      It only applies to crazy people who are tested but weaponize their health to intentionally harm others. It’s not punishing HIV+ people who disclose their status. There have been cases of people who are tested and use their health to intentionally harm others for whatever sick reason and those people should face a felony for destroying someone’s future and not just 6 – 12 months in jail

    • Heywood Jablowme

      @mhoffman953: “The people you are mentioning are not people the previous and existing law applies to.” Of course not, but again, the MAIN effect of laws like the previous law is to create a public health crisis by discouraging HIV testing. That is the reality.

      And even in the very rare cases you describe, I’m surprised you’re so sure there’s an “innocent” party. When the “innocent” SLUT agrees to get f*cked without a condom, he’s not so innocent. It’s funny how people like you are always so vehemently anti-SLUT, yet whenever THIS subject comes up, suddenly you’re seeing “innocent” parties all over the place! “Whatever happened to personal responsibility,” etc. etc. LOL.

    • mhoffman953

      @HeywoodJablowme

      There are instances where a guy who is intentionally looking to weaponize his HIV status for whatever sick reason would take the condom off. I wouldn’t go around classifying people as “slut”

    • Heywood Jablowme

      @mhoffman953: Ah, you kept on changing the goalposts over & over & over until you got to the 1/4 of 1% of cases that maybe possibly fit your theory. But even then – how can anyone prove that person X did it?

      (And thank you for FINALLY reading the article instead of just pretending to!)

      I just noticed your ignorant comment about blood banks. Blood banks, of course, screen ALL donated blood, in case someone donates without being aware they are HIV+. Everybody knows that, except you apparently.

  • Stache

    This is a good step and makes me proud to live in Cali. We don’t need to criminalize HIV. All it does is create a climate of fear that doesn’t do anyone any good. Responsibility is on everyone’s shoulder.

  • huckchuck

    Therefore, the hairdresser in the U.K., Daryll Rowe, who deliberately infected multiple men (via lying and deceit, sabotaging condoms, and pressuring partners into unprotected sex) while he refused treatment to make himself “extra toxic,” would only get 6 months in jail in California for his deplorable actions?

    If I was Darryl’s victim, I am fairly confident my psychological reaction trauma would closely resemble that of a rape victim.

    I do not believe that is an appropriate sentence. Even if I did go onto lead a long and healthy life, the lifetime cost (to my insurance provider or me) of HIV treatment can easily exceed $100,000 and likely a multiple of that.

    Lastly, would a longer sentence realistically lead to a reduction in testing? The phenomenon that if you don’t know you’re not liable, so don’t get tested. I don’t buy it. Criminal liability is not what drives people to skip testing–its ignorance, psychological issues, lack of self-worth, money, etc.

    • Juanjo

      No. Someone doing what Darryl did could be charged with a felony assault, Battery, fraud, and even rape in many states since consent is given based upon one set of circumstances but if the person seeking consent deliberately lies about their health condition, there is no valid consent and thus it is rape. All this change means is that HIV is treated the same as other communicable diseases, some of which can be fatal and which are expensive to treat.

    • Stache

      Yeah, I’ve known people who’ve died from Hepatitis and HPV infections. It’s all potentially fatal.

    • mhoffman953

      @Juanjo

      “what Darryl did could be charged with a felony assault, Battery, fraud, and even rape in many states”

      It’s no longer a felony in California, Juanjo. You reference “many states” but we’re talking about California here

    • Paco

      @huckchuck – Daryll Rowe would not get only 6 months. There is a lot of evidence that the guy was intentionally trying to infect others. Including text messages to one of the victims taunting him about the deliberate exposure.

      Have any of you left the 1980s yet? The hysteria feels the same as it did back then.

  • KaiserVonScheiss

    Whether it should be a felony or not is one thing. But you should tell your any sexual partner you have the disease. It’s that simple. And, yes, there should be some legal punishment for not revealing one’s status.

    I’m sick of this ‘criminalising HIV’ nonsense. The crime is not revealing your status before having sex with someone. And, no, the burden is not on someone to ask if the other person has it. The burden is on the positive person to tell.

  • Ummmm Yeah

    California just legalized murder because in their warped minds it’s politically correct to give someone a fatal disease so the attacker doesn’t feel bad about it.

  • dsharpark

    So… someone can lie about their HIV status, intentionally expose me and the end result is that I spend 10’s of thousands of dollars a year on medications for life (unless of course I want to go around infecting people)… and now that’s the equivalent of stealing my iPhone…

    Great!

    • Paco

      And what about the people who were upfront about their infection and get accused of not disclosing after a messy breakup and the accuser is being vindictive. The infected person is automatically guilty until proven innocent in those cases, and gay men that are accused face homophobic juries and judges that want them to be guilty. Some women with HIV are being trapped in abusive relationships as well because their abusive partner threatens to go to the police and claim the woman intentionally tried to infect them.

      The people claiming that poz people now have a free pass to sleep with people without disclosure and minimal consequences do not know what they are talking about.

    • mhoffman953

      @Paco

      That would easily be proven in court if needed. I’m sure both parties would have text messages or some form of communication to prove that both parties were aware of each other’s status. Just as with a rape case. The courts don’t automatically side with the accuser if the defendant can provide text messages or communications proving innocence

  • Mandrake

    So now it’s only a misdemeanor to knowingly infect somebody with HIV because we have medication that curbs the effects of AIDS? Are you commenters above who agree stupid or merely uninformed?
    I wish California would finally secede.

    To minimize the seriousness of being infected with HIV is one of the more bizarre and grotesque ideas I’ve ever read. UNTIL we have a cure, and ONLY until we have a cure, knowingly infecting somebody with HIV is NO misdemeanor!!

    • frankcar1965

      Stupid if CA succeeded the US would economically collapse so go ahead and wish. You probably voted for Trump. If you don’t want to get infected don’t have sex, if you jump in front of a moving truck you’re gonna get hit, I guess that’s the driver’s fault too.

    • ChrisK

      Actually Mandrake is a fox news fan and trump supporter so yes.

    • ChrisK

      What is California now. The 6 largest economy in the world. We sure don’t need Mandrake or anyone else. Yet we get no say in who’s in the white house. Ok don’t get me started.

    • Mandrake

      To Frankcar: You prove my point. Thank you. I did not vote for Trump. Your examples have nothing to do with my comment. Second, the word is “secede” not “succeed”. Have a nice day.

  • Kieran

    Oh goody!! Gay Lives DON’T MATTER.

    • ChrisK

      Only to conservative uncle toms like yourself would equating gay rights to ending hiv criminality laws.

  • Jaxton

    HIV has always been over-rated.

    The hysteria of the 1980’s has thankfully dissipated as people realize it’s not the lethal virus the panic merchants sold us.

    Sexual promiscuity and sexual concentration attracts all sorts of viruses and bacteria…but HIV was over-rated.

  • Jaxton

    By the way, how many sleazy scientists made millions of dollars by spreading HIV hysteria, much of which was homophobic? They should be named and shamed.

    • mhoffman953

      @Jaxton

      It’s more profitable to pretend HIV isn’t a big deal because it makes big pharma richer and richer. Gilead wants to market their HIV drugs and make as much money as humanly possible from them. Truvada and other HIV drugs made up 30% of their 2016 revenue. That’s why they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying in California for stuff like this

  • Kangol

    About time. Now the rest of the US needs to follow California’s example, starting with Missouri.

  • Mandrake

    To ChrisK with the “Avatar” logo. Do you honestly think the other 49 states NEED California regardless of its economy?? Please! It’s almost bankrupt and has social policies that belong on another planet. Second, I am not a Trump supporter nor a Fox News fan, BUT I am fair and balanced. Are you?

  • YourDad

    Mandrake: California almost bankrupt? Google it. Economy booming, subsidizing Trump’s failed administration and his proposed record deficits. Steady population and business growth. Why? Because Californians agree to pay for clean air, infrastructure, safety nets for the poor, etc. CA respects everyone’s differences, protects immigrants, Christians, gays, Muslims – all those “social policies that belong on another planet.”

    • Kangol

      Thank you!

    • ChrisK

      You’re an idiot. You have the right to protect yourself. If you want to be stupid then accept the risks.

      Hiv laws needed to be changed. Were not in the 80s anymore. Plus, any prosecution of HIV crimes in CA had less then 2% where there was actual intent which is a crime already punishable. The vast majority are prostitution and others where it’s an indirect prosecution where they check and then trump up the charges.

      Know the facts before going all hysterical.

    • ChrisK

      Oh and lastly the vast majority of transmissions are by those that don’t know they have it. With your hysterics it’s only likely to drive that up even further.

  • Luna1979

    Then why are we being tested for it? Not to spread it around!! No, people who have HIV aren’t criminals, disgusting, or anything else, but it’s a lifelong heath issue which requires medication to control. The medicine is not free. Some people are still not as careful with their health as they should be, and might not get tested for a while, spreading it … god, we all know how it works!! To knowingly infect someone should not be given a slap on the wrist.

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