On Friday, California governor Jerry Brown signed a law lowering the penalty for HIV patients knowingly spreading the disease to others from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“Today, California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Sen. Scott Wiener, D.- San Francisco, told The Los Angeles Times.
Democratic lawmakers in the state argued that the old law, which called for a greater penalty for spreading HIV than any other communicable disease, was a relic of the 1990s AIDS scare, and outdated.
Under the previous law, if a person with HIV has unprotected sex with their partner without telling them, they would face a felony charge and potentially spend multiple years in jail. The penalty for spreading any other communicable disease, even ones as deadly as hepatitis, is a misdemeanor.
“These laws were passed at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when there was enormous fear and ignorance and misinformation around HIV,” Wiener said earlier. “It’s time for California to lead and to repeal these laws to send a clear signal that we are going to take a science-based approach to HIV, not a fear-based approach.”
One point of contention is that it will now only be a misdemeanor if a person with HIV knowingly donates blood, which could affect a multitude of people.
Republican lawmaker Sen. Joel Anderson reportedly voted against the bill.
“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said, according to the paper.
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