California Legislators Want To Lessen Penalties For Knowingly Exposing Partner To HIV

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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It’s up to California Gov. Jerry Brown to decide whether knowingly exposing someone to the HIV virus and not disclosing that fact should be a misdemeanor or a felony after the state legislature voted Monday to reduce the penalties for such an action. The California legislature has decided it’s a misdemeanor, with a majority voting on Monday in favor of legislation that would make it so.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored the bill, says HIV should be treated like other communicable diseases and simply be a felony and that the law was discriminatory against those with the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS.

The bill would also lessen the offense for those who donate their blood or semen and don’t reveal that they carry the HIV or AIDS virus.

“Right now HIV is singled out for uniquely harsh treatment as a felony,” Wiener said when debating his legislation.

The Republican minority all express disapproval of the bill, arguing that it endangers public safety.

“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 regiment of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” said Sen. Joel Anderson. “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”

Anderson argued that it should be a greater, not a lesser offense to willfully endanger the lives of others with an infectious disease.

Wiener claimed that the current law does not served as a deterrence to passing on the HIV infection. He said tougher penalties should be extended to those who expose others to other infectious diseases.

“All they do is stigmatize people living with HIV and reduce access to testing and care.”

The legislation enjoys the support of various organizations in the Golden State, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Black Aids Institute and Equality California — lobbyists for LGBTQ causes.

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