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U.S. News

Advocates Support Overturning Iowa's Criminal HIV Law

August 30, 2011

CHAIN -- for Community HIV & Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network -- is working to repeal the state's criminal statute relating to HIV transmission. The activists want HIV to be addressed under a state law that already deals with the intentional spread of infectious diseases. CHAIN's repeal bill died in a legislative subcommittee this year, but members vow to bring it up again.


The law works against public health goals by making people less likely to test, according to CHAIN, since it applies only to sex acts by a person who knows he or she is HIV-positive. Actual transmission does not have to occur for the law to be broken. The law carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, and those convicted must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Nine Iowans are currently jailed under the law; two are on probation; and one is on parole.

HIV testing at public sites in Iowa has declined from a high of almost 24,000 in 1992, following NBA great Magic Johnson's disclosure that he was HIV-positive, to less than 6,000 last year. Randy Mayer, chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health's HIV, STD and Hepatitis Bureau, acknowledged the drop but does not necessarily blame the law, which took effect in 1998.

About 60 percent of HIV tests are now conducted in private medical settings, Mayer said. CDC funding targets high-risk populations for testing, leaving less funding for public testing sites in Iowa, he added.

Mayer noted that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy encourages state legislatures to revisit the question of whether HIV-specific laws benefit public health. "In many instances, the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment," the strategy says.

Back to other news for August 2011

Adapted from:
The Gazette (Cedar Rapids)
07.31.2011; Cindy Hadish

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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