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Effort Underway to Override State Laws Penalizing Those Who Expose Others to HIV

DOJ has been reviewing laws as lawmakers lead legislative push to end them, claiming they stigmatize the HIV-positive for just a "chronic, treatable medical condition."

by
Bridget Johnson

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December 2, 2013 - 2:11 pm
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WASHINGTON — As the U.S. marked World AIDS Day with a population of more than 1.1 million infected with HIV, a bicameral movement is underway in Congress to get the federal government to override state laws criminalizing exposure to the virus.

Proponents argue that even though there is still no cure for AIDS, advancements in drug therapies mean HIV isn’t as deadly as it once was. They also contend that laws against potential transmission of the virus — centering around full disclosure of one’s illness to a sexual partner — just stigmatize and oppress those infected with HIV.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’ll introduce the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (“REPEAL”) HIV Discrimination Act after the Senate returns next week.

“It’s simply not fair that someone having been diagnosed with a chronic, treatable medical condition should automatically be subjected to a different set of criminal laws,” Coons said. “A disturbing number of state and local criminal laws pertaining to individuals with HIV/AIDS are rooted not in science, but in outdated fear. They run counter to effective public health strategies, discourage HIV testing, and perpetuate unfair stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS – people who are our friends, family, and neighbors.”

“Rather than recognizing that HIV/AIDS is a treatable medical condition, these laws perpetuate the idea that HIV is a deadly weapon and people with HIV/AIDS are dangerous criminals,” he continued. “Our laws need to catch up to our science, and this bill would take an important step in that direction.”

Coons said his bill, which would require an interagency review of federal and state laws that criminalize certain actions by people living with HIV, came about because of charges levied against HIV-positive defendants including aggravated assault, attempted murder, and bioterrorism.

His bill complements a House effort introduced in May by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), which expresses the sense of Congress that federal and state laws “not place unique or additional burdens on such individuals solely as a result of their HIV status.”

These mandated reviews would happen at the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon.

“These laws are based on bias, not science. We need to make sure that our federal and state laws don’t discriminate against people who are living with HIV,” Lee said. “These laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred, and we’ve got to modernize them. That’s exactly what this legislation would do.”

Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican among 35 co-sponsors, said in May that the bill “will help end the serious problem of discrimination in criminal and civil cases against those who are HIV positive.”

“Singling out and discriminating against those living with HIV is not in line with our American values and we must do better,” she said. “The legislation seeks to modernize our current outdated laws and bring them into the 21st century. I urge my Republican and Democrat colleagues to join Barbara and me in helping those persons living with HIV live as healthy and normal a life as possible.”

In a fact sheet released today, the White House outlined multiple steps for a “shared responsibility” to work toward an AIDS-free generation, including targeting intervention efforts “to the right populations in the right geographic areas” and linking the infected to healthcare, employment and housing.

There was one hint in there that Eric Holder’s department is working toward overriding state laws on infecting someone with HIV.

“Stigma and discrimination keep people from getting tested, care and treatment,” the fact sheet said. “The Department of Justice (DOJ) will continue its aggressive HIV non-discrimination enforcement efforts, specifically targeting enforcement and outreach to the geographic areas with the highest prevalence of HIV, and continue its efforts to address HIV criminalization laws.”

In July 2012, 36 House Democrats wrote the attorney general to express “concern that current state and federal laws lag far behind scientific discoveries in the fight against HIV/AIDS” and to urge Holder to “expedite” his department’s review of federal and state laws concerning those living with HIV.

“Despite the remarkable advances in understanding and in treatment of HIV/AIDS, criminal laws and prosecution policies continue to treat HIV as both highly infectious and invariably fatal, and in the process perpetuate the stigma and disparities this Administration has pledged to end,” the letter stated, arguing that new treatments available since many laws were enacted make them “plainly obsolete.”

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Top Rated Comments   
These people are without souls. They, and the wealthy donors pushing these laws, are monsters.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
These bastards are determined to kill us all one way or another
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Should have quarantined the infected right from the start. That is what you do with folks infected with deadly infectious diseases.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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Giving civil rights to a disease is madness. It would be like forcing people to hire Typhoid Mary or someone with a nasty case of drug resistant TB and calling them insensitive and whining that might get sick.

Humanity had places for the incurably and contagiously sick for most of its history. This was done to keep society from being wiped out. These new privacy laws are letting people with all manner of disease roam the streets with the innocent majority unaware. It is insane and we're going to be a price for it.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have any of these vicious clowns ever heard of Typhoid Mary? She was a real person, a carrier of Typhoid. Eventually, she had to be ordered not to cook for anyone else. This had to be enforced with jail time. The carrier of HIV/AIDS is exactly the same. Do these clowns even care that a lying individual could and would infect other people, and they their wives and girlfriends. Certain people need to be rrestricted because of their irresponsibility, no matter the disease transmitted. It also applies to drug use. Ever hear of 'crack babies'?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
good luck with a blood transfusion.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is there no end to this liberal BS? Apparently not.

Whenever you hear the phrase “It’s simply not fair…” it’s time for shields up. “Fairness” has no meaning unless it is two-directional. In other words, what’s “fair” about being accidentally or deliberately exposed to a deadly but completely preventable illness?

What ever happened to the concept of mutually beneficial outcomes?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait, this law is being proposed while we've got MRSA and multi-drug resistant gonorrhea on the continent?

is this some weird, last-gasp before the Democratic Party dies sort of thing?

People in some states are still required to pass a Wasserman test to check for syphilis, prior to getting married.

For that matter, in at least one state, the malicious infection law was put in place when a straight doctor injected the disease into his girlfriend with a syringe. It had nothing to do with gay men. It had everything to do with a slow-motion poisoning and miserable death.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The logic is that people are trying to remain ignorant of their HIV status so as not to be criminally liable for knowingly spreading HIV, and that decriminalizing this will free people to learn their status and, if necessary, get treatment.

So what we should do instead is to criminalize the spreading of HIV, knowingly OR unknowingly. Then people will have an incentive to get tested.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Gay lobby has always opposed normal public health measures such as contact tracing when applied to AIDS. The Gay Lobby sees AIDS as a community disease that they all "share" whether infected or not. They are concerned about discrimination but not from people outside the gay culture. They don't think a gay person has any right to exempt themselves from the community disease. If everybody knows that Joe is HIV positive then he will not be able to find willing uninfected sex partners. How dare they not be willing to risk infection?

The Gay lobby has ridden sympathy for a lifestyle driven, sexually transmitted disease to privileged status. Back in the bad old days if someone contracted syphilis or gonorrhea through their own deliberate actions any suggestion that they deserved our sympathy would be laughed at.

Sexually transmitted diseases interfere with sexual rights. Sexual rights are most important rights to both Progressives and Libertarians. We must therefore use the coercive powers of the Federal Government to guarantee that no one is deprived of their right to have sex without consequences.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Anybody who knowingly causes another person to be exposed to a disease like HIV DESERVES to be stigmatized.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's fine as long Sen. Coons (BTW, are you really allowed to be a liberal Democrat with that last name) volunteers himself, his wife and his children to be voluntarily infected with HIV as a condition for sponsorship of this POS legislation, I'm good with that.

Oh and everyone who votes for it gets the same treatment..... Yeah, I'm sure it'll pass....
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
i don't have a problem with butt jockey's secretly infecting other butt jockeys with a fatal disease. Kinda like the idea and think they should do more of it /S
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is that some of these "butt jockeys" can go the other way & infect the women they sleep with.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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