New California legislation saying it will no longer be a felony to knowingly expose a sexual partner to HIV has become the source of widespread debate.
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation into effect. Before the law, knowingly exposing someone to HIV was a felony crime punishable by up to eight years in prison. However, the new law will reclassify the act as a misdemeanor, which can result in a maximum of six months in jail, reports CNN. In addition, the new law also reduces the penalty for knowingly donating HIV-infected blood.
“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 told the LA Times.
“Stigma is a critical barrier to ending the AIDS epidemic and decriminalization is an important step in fighting stigma,” Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, told The Root. “People are not going to get tested and they’re not going to disclose and they’re not going to seek treatment in an environment where HIV is criminalized, and so this new law is extremely important in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic in California.”
Wilson added, “If we really want to prevent HIV infection, then getting people treatment is not only the best, it’s really the only way for us to protect people.”
(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)