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Law & Crime

Illinois Governor Fully Decriminalizes HIV

Governor Pritzker

Illinois is the second state to completely reverse its HIV criminalization laws. Texas did so in 1994.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill decriminalizing HIV. Before, those in Illinois living with HIV could have faced prison time and thousands of dollars in fines for not disclosing their HIV status to their sexual partners.

Pritzker said the laws were archaic. “They don’t decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” he said, according to Chicago media outlet WMAQ. “It’s high time we treat HIV as we do other treatable transmissible diseases.”

Activists cheered for the bill, saying it’s a significant step in helping fight the stigma around living with HIV.

“Especially for people living with HIV, it finally takes the stigma away that people living with HIV are dangerous. It finally makes HIV, like every other disease, not criminalized,” AIDS Foundation Chicago community organizer Coleman Goode told Plus. “So this is a very monumental moment, especially with only being the second state in the country to completely repeal the harmful law.”

Texas decriminalized its HIV law in 1994.

“The criminalization of HIV has harmed communities in our home state for decades. It has done nothing other than spread fear and stigma, and it discouraged people from getting tested or knowing their status. This legislation was passed to bring an end to these harms and modernize how we approach this public health issue. We are very relieved to see this destructive law has finally been stricken from the books,” said the Illinois HIV Action Alliance in a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois.

The lead state senate sponsor, Robert Peters, said the law was rooted in fear and racism. “It was used to abuse people in our state, targeting people living with HIV and disproportionately affecting LGBTQ+ people, women, and Black and Brown communities,” he said.

State Rep. Carol Ammons, the lead House sponsor, praised Pritzker for signing the bill.

“Not a single study throughout the country shows HIV criminalization has reduced HIV transmission in any jurisdiction where it exists. It was far past time to get rid of this harmful law, and we thank Governor Pritzker for repealing it once and for all,” Ammons said.

The bill, HB 1063, will also prevent a state’s attorney from getting access to a person’s medical history for cases.

Pritzker signed several other bills in support of LGBTQ+ people. One, HB 3709, allows same-sex couples to receive fertility treatment coverage. The bill also provides coverage to women over 35, single people, and those who cannot get pregnant due to a medical condition. HB 2590 makes county clerks issue new marriage certificates with the new legal name on them if one member of the couple shows the clerk a legal name change order.

Additionally, under SB 139 a county clerk must grant a new marriage certificate after a person requests a correction to the gendered language on the marriage certificate. They can also remove the gendered language from the certificate altogether so that “spouse” is used.

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