California's HIV criminalization laws go back decades. They're felonies, even if the actual virus is not transmitted to another person.
SB 239 would update these laws, making someone who has unprotected sex without disclosing their HIV status -- and actually infecting another person -- subject to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Intentionally infecting someone with other viruses, such as herpes, is already a misdemeanor under state law.
"When you criminalize people, they're less likely to get tested because they're going to be fearful that if they know they're HIV-positive they might end up being guilty of a felony," state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the legislation, said.
A December 2016 University of California, Los Angeles study even notes that 98 percent of HIV law convictions required no proof of intent to transmit the virus.
Edward Machtinger, Director of the Women's HIV Program at University of California, San Francisco, said the current HIV laws imply that everybody is contagious. New HIV medication allows someone to live a normal life with no possibility of transmission.
"The laws spread misinformation," he said. "Transmitting HIV is hard."
The legislation is scheduled to be heard in the state Senate's Committee on Public Safety March 28.
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