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Proposed Law Aims to Stop Criminalizing People with HIV

Proposed Law Aims to Stop Criminalizing People with HIV

A new bill was introduced to Congress Thursday that would end extensive punishment for people who transmit HIV to others. Rep. Barbara Lee's Repeal HIV Discrimination Act would require all laws and policies about the criminal prosecution for people with HIV.

In Ohio, for example, it is unlawful for an HIVer to engage in sexual acts before disclosing their HIV status to a sexual partner.

"This bill gives a lot of people hope," Tracy Johnson, 23, told Housing Works. "These laws have made me feel like I’m a criminal because I have this illness. Even if I disclose, I know I can still be arrested if my partner gets mad at me and tells the police I didn’t do so."

Currently, 34 states have laws that criminalize exposure to HIV and non-disclosure of HIV with sexual partners, according to the Positive Justice Project. People found guilty of violating such laws can face up to 30 years in prison, and some states require violators to register as sex offenders.

"The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act will serve a critical role in educating Members of Congress and the public about the harmful and discriminatory practice of criminalizing HIV," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Such state laws often originated during times when fear and ignorance over HIV transmission were widespread, and serve to stigmatize those who are living with HIV. Our criminal laws should not be rooted in outdated myths. Rep. Lee is to be commended for her tireless leadership on behalf of those who are living with HIV/AIDS."

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