Purposely exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing a positive status is no longer a felony in California.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday downgrading the crime to a misdemeanor. The bill also applies to people who give blood and fail to tell blood banks they’re HIV-positive.
State Sen. Scott Wiener [D-San Francisco] explained that the stiff penalty discouraged people from getting tested and stigmatized those living with the infection, according to CBS News.
Weiner called the previous law “extreme and discriminatory,” noting that since it did not address the risk of infection in criminalizing exposure, even individuals taking HIV medication were subject to prosecution.
“The most effective way to reduce HIV infections is to destigmatize HIV,” the state senator told CNN. “To make people comfortable talking about their infection, get tested, get into treatment.”
Critics say the new bill would actually endanger more people. State Sen. Jeff Stone [R-Riverside County], a pharmacist, claimed that three out of four people on medication do not take it as prescribed.
“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,” Stone said in September.
The Times reported that HIV is the only communicable disease for which exposing someone is a felony. State Sen. Joel Anderson [R-Alpine], a critic of the latest bill, said there could be harsher penalties for knowingly spreading other infectious diseases.
“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 on the Senate floor.
“It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”
The bill will take effect on January 1, 2018.
[Featured Image: Flickr/GbergT]