One California writer would like to see current laws prohibiting people from “willfully” exposing others to AIDS be overturned, because contracting the disease is no longer a death sentence.
Erika D. Smith, the associate editor of The Sacramento Bee daily newspaper, wrote, “The AIDS crisis is over. Why are people still going to jail over HIV?” In her column, Smith recalls the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and one case involving a young hemophiliac named Ryan White, who contracted the disease from an infected blood transfusion.
She then says, “Over time, that vague fear of AIDS that I once had has been replaced with an understanding that HIV is a chronic illness that can be easily managed with medication. It’s no longer a death sentence. What’s more, it’s highly unlikely that someone with an undetectable level of HIV in his or her blood, which is pretty common these days for undergoing treatment, will transmit the virus to anyone else.”
Pointing out that in California and more than 30 other states, willfully exposing people to AIDS is a felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, Smith said that she thinks this is unfair.
“These laws aren’t ‘compassionate,’ ‘caring’ or ‘tolerant’ toward people with HIV or AIDS. They’re fear-based holdovers from the days of the ‘gay plague,'” claims Smith, taking a further stab at President Ronald Reagan, whom she charges with letting the AIDS epidemic happen in the first place “by ignoring the disease and its victims for far too long. Back in the 1980s, Reagan wasn’t ‘compassionate,’ ‘caring’ or ‘tolerant’,” she says.
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