Urgent Action Required to Fight Unscientific, Stigmatising Nebraska Bill That Will Criminalise Body Fluid Assault on Public Safety Officers
By Edwin J. Bernard
February 1, 2011
This article was cross-posted from the blog "Criminal HIV Transmission."
This Friday, February 4th, the Nebraska State Legislature will debate The Assault with Bodily Fluids Bill which would criminalise striking any public safety officer with any bodily fluid (or expelling bodily fluids toward them) and includes a specific increase of penalty to a felony (up to five years and/or $10,000 fine) if the defendant is HIV-positive and/or has Hepatitis B or C.
The Bill ignores the fact that HIV cannot be transmitted through spit, urine, vomit, or mucus; punishes the decision to get tested for HIV; and will not keep public safety officers safer, but rather will reinforce misinformation and stigma about HIV.
Two major problems with the Bill are:
1. The proposed language in Sec. 2(3) is contrary to science
2. Codifying the breach of doctor /patient confidentiality in Sec. 2(5) is extremely serious, and should not be undertaken with no public health benefit
- It is extremely important for public and individual health for people with HIV to get tested at the earliest opportunity, start timely treatment, and stay on treatment. This all hinges on having a good relationship with their doctor or health care provider. Forcing doctors and health care providers to reveal private health information, or even testify about it, will have a negative impact on patient trust of the health care system and willingness to remain engaged in HIV care. The plain language in Sec. 2(5) would force any person charged under this statute to be tested for the identified viruses, or force the opening of their medical records for previous testing results.
The Positive Justice Project (PJP) has produced a set of talking points (download here) that summarises the problems with the Bill, and with HIV-specific legislation in general. PJP highlights that the wording of the Bill is so broad that it would allow for the following Kafkaesque situations:
- If a person with HIV accidentally vomits in the direction of a medical officer in a prison infirmary, they could be sentenced to five more years in prison.
- If someone accidentally sneezes in the direction of a police officer, a judge must grant a court order for their medical records and they may be subjected to involuntary HIV antibody and hepatitis B and C antigen testing if the police officer decides to press charges.
- An inmate who spits or vomits in the direction of a corrections officer, even without hitting or intending to hit the officer, can be forcibly tested for HIV and hepatitis and if found to have any of these viruses, charged with a felony.
- An adolescent with HIV or hepatitis held in a juvenile detention facility who spits while being restrained by a corrections officer, or while arguing with a guidance counselor, could wind up serving five years in an adult prison facility.
PJP asks anyone in the United States who cares about this issue to contact their State representative (using the talking points to highlight the many problems with the Bill) and specifically encourages any networks or individuals in Nebraska to contact:
State Senator Mike Gloor, who introduced the Bill.
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2617
State AIDS Director
Office of Disease Control and Health Promotion
Nebraska Department Health and Human Services
301 Centennial Mall South, 3rd Floor
P.O. Box 95026
Lincoln, Nebraska, 68509-5044
State Prevention Manager
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, Nebraska, 68509
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Comment by: Jill W.
(South Lyon, MI)
Fri., May. 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm EDT
I have to say that misinformation must come secondary to protection in this case. If we're still too concerned about some John Q. Idiot STILL thinking HIV is transmitted through saliva while an officer comes into contact with it through an inmate's deliberate throwing of HIV-infected semen then opponents of this bill are just as guilty as the inmate. There will always be uninformed idiots, I, however, have known you can't get AIDS from kissing since Rock Hudson kissed Linda Evans on Dynasty. And that was in the 80's! But if the inmate has a cut in his mouth or on his lip, Delmundo? Not so "medically inaccurate" now, is it? Inmates could potentially have any type of injury placing blood in any bodily fluid, including feces. It's dangerous NOT to pass this bill. The bill state "knowingly and intentionally", NOT accidentally. So stop fear-mongering. And also think about who will knowingly and intentionally do such a thing. I guarantee none of the law abiding citizens reading this, this law is not aimed at you or written to imprison any you know. Ask a law enforcement officer the type of inmate this is for. By the way, I'm a die-hard Democrat and bleeding heart liberal.
Comment by: Eric Glare
Tue., Feb. 8, 2011 at 5:02 am EST
I read with great alarm your claim that mucus "absolutely cannot transmit HIV".
Mucus is the secretion of mucous membranes and therefore includes vaginal mucus (responsible for vaginal-penile HIV transmission) and anal mucus (responsible for anal-penile transmission) - sorry but this is the basics of HIV transmission known for decades and you have got it completely wrong.
The proposed bill is appallingly ignorant of the science but you have to get the science right too. It is simply not scientific enough nor enough justice to rely on lay descriptions from the CDC.
Of course 'fluid' or 'secretion' have often been used instead of mucus but even more often explanations do not indicate a specific body fluid in how the insertive partner in anal sex gets infected. And on other occasions one might miss references to mucus (noun) due to the erroneous use of 'mucous' (adjective) instead. Discussion of mucus in transmission: http://www.thebody.com/Forums/AIDS/SafeSex/Q207634.html
Mucus covers many other body fluids that are not relevant to transmission of HIV, HBV or HCV including tears, ear wax, saliva, nasal mucus and bronchial and lung sputum unless they are contaminated with blood. Nevertheless the proposed legislation includes all body fluids.
Lastly, all the best wishes in your fight against this heinous proposal - it will be a world-wide travesty of prevention, human rights and justice if the bill is passed.
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