May 9, 2013
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives that would force the repeal or amendment of state and federal laws that make it a crime for HIV-infected people to expose sexual partners to the virus, even if they do not transmit the virus. Many states enacted laws that criminalize intentional HIV transmission to satisfy requirements of the Ryan White Care Act of 1990.
Lee stated that her participation on the United Nations Development Program's Global Commission on HIV and the Law made her aware of US laws that discriminate against HIV-infected people. For example, people who know they have HIV and expose a partner through unprotected sex without forewarning the partner can go to jail for three to eight years under California's law. Lee stated that it is against the law in 32 states and 2 US territories for an HIV-infected person to expose another person, even if they do not transmit the virus. The Center for HIV Law and Policy reported at least 350 cases in 36 states where HIV-infected people have been "arrested or prosecuted" for having consensual sex or "biting and spitting."
Lee unsuccessfully introduced a similar bill in 2011, but H.R. 1843, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act, has a Republican co-author, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), which may attract Republican support. The bill places responsibility for monitoring new and existing laws on the US attorney general, the secretary of Defense, and the secretary of Health and Human Services; these agencies also would create a set of best practices for lawmakers.