Activists in Nevada are praising updates to the state's HIV law, as sex workers in the state will no longer be targeted by police if they are living with HIV. Previously, sex workers with HIV, whether working at a licensed business or not, could face a felony charge that could carry 10 years in prison and $10,000.
Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the bill into law in early June. Nevada is the only state with legal, regulated sex work.
The bill “fulfills the goal of reducing the harm to sex workers by allowing for people living with HIV to work and earn a living without the risk or fear of arrest or additional charges simply because they have HIV,” Chelsi Cheatom, program director at the Las Vegas syringe service program Trac-B Exchange, told Filter.
It also reduces the charge and penalty for intentional HIV transmission.
André Wade, state director of Silver State Equality, said the bill was good for everyone in Nevada. The new law allows sex workers to feel safe getting tested and helps restores their agency. “When people are no longer penalized for knowing their status, it encourages them to come forward, get tested and get treatment,” Wade said.
The bill came out of the Governor’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, which was created by a law supported by a grassroots group, including organizers who were women living with HIV, according to Filter.
Over half of HIV-related charges and convictions — 61 percent and 64 percent respectively — were related to laws specifically targeting sex workers. Defendants who were Black were part of 66 percent of sex work HIV charges, with 61 percent of the convictions, according to a brief by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The institute found that since 1995, 47 people have been charged with 95 different HIV-related crimes. Almost 60 of those charges were related to Nevada’s HIV criminal statute on sex work.
Filter reported that a prohibition on employing sex workers with HIV seems to still be in place at licensed businesses. Those who test positive for HIV must cease their work. The outlet reported that the regulation doesn’t take into account that HIV can become untransmittable with a proper drug regimen.
“The continuation of this prohibition may be addressed by the next iteration of the Governor’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization,” Wade said.