A law that makes it a felony to knowingly expose another person to HIV by having unprotected sex with them without disclosing one's positive HIV status is being targeted by State Senator and former Castro Supervisor Scott Wiener along with other lawmakers in Sacramento who see the felony designation for that action as outdated and counterproductive.
"These laws — passed at the height of AIDS hysteria — treat HIV-positive people as criminals just for having sex, even without risk of transmission," writes Wiener to his Facebook page. They treat HIV more harshly than all other dangerous infectious diseases. HIV is a health problem, not a criminal problem. Our laws should reflect that reality."
The LA Times reports that Wiener wrote the bill, SB 239, with House Assembly Members David Chiu of San Francisco, Todd Gloria of San Diego, and Susan Eggman of Stockton. The law would reduce what's now a felony to a misdemeanor. There have been 357 convictions for the HIV-specific felony since 1988 and 2014 per a UCLA School of Law study cited by the LA Times. The majority of convictions involved sex work.
“Current state law related to those living with HIV is unfair because it is based on the fear and ignorance of a bygone era,” the LA Times quotes Gloria. Medical advances allow 18.2 million people to live their lives as HIV positive, and medicines such as PrEP, a drug Wiener said he takes in 2014, can prevent contracting HIV from unprotected sex with an HIV positive person. "With this legislation, California takes an important step to update our laws to reflect the medical advances which no longer make a positive diagnosis equal to a death sentence," Gloria concluded.
Also something that has changed since the original law was passed is the success of HIV medications that effectively make those infected unable to transmit the disease and with "undetectable" viral loads.
State Senator Jeff Stone, a republican from Murrieta, opposes Wiener's bill. “HIV/AIDS remains a deadly disease,” Stone, who is a pharmacist, said in a statement obtained by the LA Times. “Existing law provides accountability of those engaging in unprotected, risky behavior that endangers the life of another."
To provide one example of the burden the current aw places on HIV-positive people, Nestor Rogel, a 26-year-old who was born HIV-positive. “I feel that I have to work extra hard in these [dating] situations, and it’s hard to tell what the right action even is,” Rogel tells the Sacramento Bee. “And needing to do that is based on outdated conceptions about HIV and HIV transmission. But it’s still the current law.”