The California Assembly on Thursday
approved a bill that seeks to reduce the penalty for intentionally
exposing another person to HIV.
Senate Bill 239 would treat HIV like
other communicable diseases under California law, reducing
intentional exposure from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Assembly members approved the bill with
a 44-13 vote.
The bill now heads to the Senate for
final approval before seeking Governor Jerry Brown's signature.
The bill has the backing of Equality
California, the ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS
Institute, Lambda Legal and Positive Women's Network.
“Criminalization serves only to fuel
continued stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV,”
California argued in a paper supporting a change in the law.
“These laws work against public health. They provide an incentive
not to know your HIV status because you can only be prosecuted if you
know you are HIV-positive. They create mistrust of public health
professionals, making people who have tested HIV-positive less likely
to cooperate with partner notification, treatment adherence and
prevention programs. And they place HIV-negative people in harm's
way by making them believe they can engage in risky behaviors without
According to a
study conducted by the Williams Institute, at least 800 people
between 1988 and 2014 were arrested, charged or came into contact
with the criminal justice system because of their HIV status.
Researchers concluded that such laws disproportionately affect women
and people of color.