Yesterday Rep. Barbara Lee reintroduced a bill that could eventually force the repeal of laws that criminalize exposing others to HIV. Lee first introduced the bill in 2011. Lambda Legal has issued a press release in support of the bill.
The REPEAL (“Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal”) HIV Discrimination Act calls for review of all federal and state laws, policies, and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses. If enacted, it would be the first piece of federal legislation to take on the issue of HIV criminalization, encouraging states to reconsider laws and practices that unfairly target people with HIV for consensual sex and conduct that poses no real risk of HIV transmission. The proposed bill is being met with widespread support, including endorsements from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Positive Justice Project, and AIDS United.
Thirty-four states and two U.S. territories now have laws that make “exposure” to or nondisclosure of HIV a crime. Though condom use significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission, most HIV-specific laws do not consider condom use a mitigating factor or as evidence that the person did not intend to transmit HIV. Sentences imposed on people convicted of HIV-specific offenses can range from 10-30 years, even in the absence of intent to transmit HIV, actual transmission, or even the potential for transmission. Though most convictions are based on consensual sexual activity between adults, those convicted are often required to register as “sex offenders.”
Lambda Legal has a case pending before the Iowa Supreme Court in which they are seeking to overturn the 25-year sentence of an HIV+ man who used a condom during a single sexual encounter in which there was no HIV transmission.