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Policy & Politics

Virginia: Bill Advances That Would Require HIV Disclosure

March 2, 2004

It is already a felony to intentionally infect someone with HIV under current Virginia law, but a Senate panel advanced legislation Monday that would require HIV-infected people to disclose their status before engaging in sexual intercourse. After passing the Senate Courts of Justice Committee 12-1 with two abstentions, the legislation now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.

Under the bill by Del. Kathy Byron (R-Campbell), which previously passed the House unanimously, failing to tell a partner about one's HIV infection prior to engaging in sex would be a crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. "I don't see where it's any different from carrying around a loaded weapon if somebody doesn't know that you have it on you," said Byron.

But Steven Benjamin, special counsel to the Senate panel, is concerned the bill could deter people from getting tested for HIV. "If he knows that if he acquires the knowledge that his activity is a crime, it could discourage him from going out and attaining the knowledge," Benjamin argued.

Ramona Smith, an education coordinator for the Tidewater AIDS Community Task Force in Norfolk, said she encourages people with HIV to disclose their status before having sex but she also understands the stigma attached to such admissions. "A lot of people living with the disease, they're doing all they can to hold on to self-esteem and who they are," explained Smith.

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Smith also worries that the bill, if passed, could open the door to mandating disclosure in work settings. "I think the law is fine as it is," said Smith.

Virginia Department of Health spokesperson Wanda Cooper stressed that state law protects the confidentiality of people who test HIV-positive. Though health authorities may contact a patient's previous sex partners to inform them of the person's HIV status, they do not reveal his or her name.

Back to other news for March 2, 2004

Adapted from:
Associated Press
03.01.04; Justin Bergman



  
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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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