Thanks to the power of modern science Georgia governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, recently signed a bill into law that updated the state’s policy on HIV disclosure. Now it is no longer a felony (previously punishable by up to 10 years in prison) to not tell someone your HIV status before sexual activity, according to POZ magazine.
The bill, SB 164, was first introduced by Republican state senator Chuck Hufstetler in the Senate and was supported in the House by Republican representative Sharon Cooper. According to Georgia Equality, the legislation had received “almost unanimous support” in both chambers.
Georgia follows the lead of many other states that have updated their HIV-related laws to better align with modern science, particularly the U=U movement. U=U, or “undetectable equals untransmittable,” is the globally-accepted scientific consensus that means if one is on HIV treatment and achieves an undetectable viral load, the virus has a zero chance of being transmitted to a sexual partner — even without a condom.
However, Capital Beat reported that under the revised law, people living with HIV still can be charged with a felony and serve up to five years in prison if they show intent to transmit HIV and that there was “significant risk of transmission based on current scientifically supported levels of risk transmission.”
“As a person living with HIV, I’m encouraged that the legislature understands the advances in HIV science. Ending the stigma around HIV is a necessity to ending the HIV epidemic and I look forward to continuing efforts that support PLWH,” said Malcolm Reid, cochair of the Georgia HIV Justice Coalition and federal policy chair for the People Living With HIV Caucus, in a press statement.
“This effort is the product of the power of the people,” said Kamaria Laffrey, project director at the Sero Project, an advocacy group that fights HIV criminalization. People living with HIV “will have a lessened layer of stigma. The mobilization and centering of the voices that are most impacted by these laws in partnership with the strategic relationship building with legislative champions is the key piece to how people living in Georgia have made this amazing achievement possible.”