Knowingly Exposing Others to HIV will be Reduced to a Misdemeanor in California
Earlier last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 239 (SB 239) that lowers the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection from a felony to a misdemeanor. SB 239 will also apply to those who give blood without telling the blood bank that they are HIV-positive. According to the authors of the bill, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), modern medicine allows those with HIV to live longer lives and nearly eliminates the possibility of transmission. Supporters of the change claim the current law requires an intent to transmit HIV to justify a felony, but others noted cases have been prosecuted where there was no physical contact, so there was an argument intent was lacking. The day the bill was signed, Sen. Wiener stated,
Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals. HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does. We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care
HIV has been the only communicable disease for which exposure is a felony under California law. Wiener argued that the current law may convince people not to be tested for HIV, because without a test they cannot be charged with a felony if they expose a partner to the infection. Republican lawmakers including Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine voted against the bill because he believes SB 239 puts the public at risk. Anderson said the answer could be to extend tougher penalties to those who expose others to other infectious diseases. Hopefully everyone is getting tested regularly and this will not be a major issue.