According to recent reports, knowingly infecting others with the HIV virus will no longer be a felony in California. State Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday which lowers the felony to a misdemeanour if a person knowingly exposes a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the status of their infection.
Reports state that the measure also applies to those people who give their blood to blood banking without disclosing that they are HIV positive.
State Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who authored the bill, said that with the help of modern medicine, those infected with the HIV virus tend to live longer and they almost eliminate the possibility of a transmission of the virus.
Commenting on the bill, Wiener in a statement said, “Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals. HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does.”
Supporters of the new bill said that the law currently effective in California requires an intent to transmit HIV to justify a felony charge. Many noted that people in certain cases were prosecuted even though there was no physical contact in the case.
HIV is the only communicable disease in California for which exposure is a felony. HIV can cause AIDS, a fatal disease the cure to which has still not been found yet.
“We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care,” Wiener added.
People who supported the bill said that women who engage in prostitution are also unduly targeted with criminal cargoes. Certain cases have also been noted where the infection was not even transmitted.
Republican lawmakers in California however voted against the passing of the bill, stating that the bill puts public at risk.
“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 regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Republican Senator Anderson said during the floor debate. “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.”