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HIV-Related Crime Laws Cost Florida $12 Million

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The Williams Institute analyzed data going back to 1986 in an updated report on HIV criminalization in the state. 

The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law has found that there have been at least 358 convictions for HIV-related crimes in Florida since 1986, which has cost Florida taxpayers $12 million.

Previously, the institute presented data on the situation in Florida in 2018. In the report, researchers said that prior findings were confirmed, including the disproportionate impact HIV-related crime laws have on Black people and women.

The institute found that while Black people were 45 percent of the population of Florida living with HIV, Black people accounted for 56 percent of the people serving prison sentences for HIV-related crimes.

And women accounted for 27 percent of people living with HIV but accounted for 51 percent of those serving time for HIV-related crimes.

Six out of 10 HIV-related convictions between 1997-2020 were related to sex work.  

The new analysis also found that the enforcement of HIV crimes in 2018 and 2019 was the highest in the state in over a decade. That enforcement, however, stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our research shows that Florida continues to criminalize people living with HIV,” lead author and Williams Institute analyst, Nathan Cisneros, told the Washington Blade. “Over 350 people have been convicted under Florida’s HIV criminalization laws — none of which require actual transmission or even the possibility of transmission. And 154 people have gone to prison in the past 25 years, costing Florida taxpayers at least $12 million to house them in state prisons.”

HIV criminalization refers to laws that criminalize what would otherwise be understood as legal behavior or if there is an increase in a penalty due to someone’s HIV status, according to the Williams Institute. In Florida, sex work, donating blood, and consensual sex without disclosure of HIV status have been specifically criminalized for those living with HIV.

“None of Florida’s HIV-specific criminal laws require actual transmission of HIV or the intent to transmit HIV,” noted the institute in its report. “People can be incarcerated in Florida for HIV-related offenses even where no transmission occurred and there was no possibility of transmission.”

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