California lawmakers gave a green light Monday to a bill that would reduce penalties for knowingly exposing someone to HIV without telling them, claiming the current felony charge for the crime is discriminatory.
The bill, SB 239, will now head to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto, the Los Angeles Times reported.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who introduced the bill, said the current law discriminates against people with HIV because people who expose others with different viruses get only a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
“Right now HIV is singled out for uniquely harsh treatment as a felony,” Wiener said during the floor debate, according to the L.A. Times. He added that modern drugs allow someone with HIV to be noninfectious to others, while the felony charge may discourage some from getting tested.
“These laws do not prevent HIV infections. All they do is stigmatize people living with HIV and reduce access to testing and care.”
"These laws do not prevent HIV infections. All they do is stigmatize people living with HIV and reduce access to testing and care."
The bill – if passed – would also apply to people who donated semen or blood without disclosing they have HIV or AIDS.
All Republicans came out against the bill, claiming a reduction in penalties for exposing someone to HIV puts the public at risk.
“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 regiment of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” state Sen. Joel Anderson, of San Diego, said, the L.A. Times reported.
“It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this,” he added, suggesting tougher penalties should be applicable to those with other diseases.
"It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this."
Jeff Stone, a Republican senator and currently licensed pharmacist and pharmacy owner, said the law should remain unchanged as someone exposing their partner to HIV would “condemn one to probably $1 million in drug therapy for the rest of their lives.”