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Law & Crime

Dem Governor Signs Bill Punishing HIV Transmission With Prison

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Advocates say such laws don't hinder transmissions, but rather promote stigma.

Democratic governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recently signed a bill into law that makes passing on a communicable disease a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The new law, known as HB 103, charges a third-degree felony with up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines for those who “expel” saliva, blood, or any other bodily fluid on a police officer. The offense must be “intentional,” but that intention is usually left up for debate.

The second part of the law charges a second-degree felony if offenders “should have known” they had a communicable disease before they passed it on. Violators persecuted will face up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Outside of HIV, the law could also apply to those with other communicable diseases such as COVID-19, chicken pox, and hepatitis.

A large list of groups including the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Pennsylvania HIV Justice Alliance spoke out against the bill.

Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, Director of LGBTQ Health & Rights with Advocates for Youth, said in a statement, “As a person living with HIV who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, the passing of HB 103 serves as a reminder that as we get closer to ending the HIV epidemic, we have a long way to go to end HIV stigma and the criminalization of people living with HIV.”

Of the 35 states that criminalize HIV exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports many of the laws were passed prior to our current understanding of HIV and how its transmitted and controlled.

Medical professionals and activists believe that HIV criminalization laws do nothing to help limit transmissions, and in fact discourage people from getting tested for fear of criminal penalties.

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