Brown signs bill reducing penalties for HIV transmission

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Senate Bill 239 - reducing the crime from a felony to misdemeanour was signed last week by Governor Jerry Brown.

The legislation also applies to people who give or donate blood without telling the blood bank they have HIV. According to Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), authors of the bill who is the state Senator and also the author of the bill. Weiner said in a statement that its passage represents 'a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals'.

The American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have come out against laws criminalizing HIV, and the CDC recently announced those living with HIV who are undetectable can not pass the virus on to others, even without protection.

"With his signature, Governor Brown has moved California's archaic HIV laws out of the 1980s and into the 21st century".

Wiener said by destigmatizing HIV, the bill would encourage people to get tested, which will in turn lower HIV transmission in the state. At the time, there weren't effective treatments for HIV, and there were rumors of people intentionally infecting sexual partners with the disease.

However, not everyone is convinced of the wisdom of such a decision.

Meanwhile, the Republican lawmakers including Sen.

Republican senator on the bill: 'It's absolutely insane'.

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But many have argued these laws ignore decades of medical science, fail to actually reduce infection rates, and disproportionately punish black men, as HIV rates are higher among people of color. "I want to thank Governor Brown for his support in helping to put California at the forefront of a national movement to reform these discriminatory laws".

Anderson said the answer could be to extend tougher penalties to those who expose others to other infectious diseases.

Anderson was not the only one who met the measure with resistance. Sen.

Stone, who is also a pharmacist, took aim at Wiener and Gloria's argument that modern medicine can lower the spread of HIV.

"If you don't take your AIDS medications and you allow for some virus to duplicate and show a presence, then you are able to transmit that disease to an unknowing partner", Stone said in September.

The statutes that the new laws revise date back to the late 1980s, when AIDS had emerged as a public health crisis in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and NY.

In addition to the organizations sponsoring the bill, SB 239 was supported by CHCR members including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project, the Transgender Law Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the Free Speech Coalition and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP).

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