Sacramento, CA – California lawmakers voted on SB239 Wednesday to repeal a law which made it a felony to intentionally infect somebody with HIV.
Now that the state Senate has passed SB239, the bill will pass to the Assembly. The bill would eliminate any provisions specifically targeting HIV.
Under the current law, if a person intentionally infects another with any communicable disease, including potentially deadly diseases such as hepatitis, they can only be charged with a misdemeanor. If SB239 is signed into law, it would be considered a misdemeanor to intentionally infect somebody with a life-long disease.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco) authored the bill and pointed out that with the felony law removed, it’s not decriminalized, because people could still be charged with misdemeanors.
“The stereotype of the predatory man who’s having sex with people and recklessly exposing them is not [who’s] being prosecuted,” said Wiener, according to KPCC. “These laws very disproportionately target women, particularly women of color.”
Sen. Wiener is referring to prostitutes.
If a person knew that they were infected with HIV and they wanted to have unprotected sex with another person, they would simply have to inform that person that they had the disease ahead of time. This would allow their partner to consent or take precautions. Sen. Scott Wiener thinks this burden is too great for people.
U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division agrees with Sen. Wiener and says that HIV specific laws, “may be viewed as initially well-intentioned and necessary law enforcement tools, the vast majority do not reflect the current state of the science of HIV and, as a result, place unique and additional burdens on individuals living with HIV.”
Telling somebody that you’re about to infect them with an incurable disease doesn’t sound particularly burdensome, but the DOJ says it’s so.
SB239 would make the maximum sentence for intentionally infecting somebody with HIV a 6 month jail sentence. However, based on how the legal system works, the perpetrator is more likely to receive a fine and no jail time.
Do you think that intentionally infecting somebody with HIV should result in prison time? We’d like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.