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"Repeal HIV Discrimination Act" to Be Introduced in U.S. Senate Addresses HIV/AIDS Criminalization

December 10, 2013

This article was reported by Fusion.

Fusion reported this week about a new bill to be introduced to the US Senate that will encourage the review of state laws on HIV criminalization. Thirteen states have laws that make biting or spitting a felony if the perpetrator has HIV, although CDC stated years ago that HIV cannot be transmitted via saliva. Additionally, 32 states and two territories have other laws pertaining to transmitting HIV between people.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) will introduce the "Repeal HIV Discrimination Act" next Monday. It is the same bill that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced last May. The legislation will encourage state governments to analyze laws that were put into place in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, which bill supporters claim were based on fear.

"Rather than recognizing that HIV/AIDS is a treatable medical condition, these laws perpetuate the idea that HIV is a deadly weapon and people with HIV/AIDS are dangerous criminals," Coons said. He continued that "Our laws need to catch up to our science, and this bill would take an important step in that direction."

Dozens of countries followed the United States in placing HIV laws on the books. According to a 2010 report by the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), 24 countries have convicted at least 600 HIV-positive people. A 2012 University of Michigan study found most US convictions are men of color with female partners. The Center for HIV Law and Policy found that "the outcomes that are known often involve draconian penalties, including prison sentences that reach 25 years or more, even when no transmission of HIV occurred."

Currently, 34 sponsors and more than 150 organizations endorse the bill, including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and the American Psychological Association.

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