Post submitted by Jennifer Pike, HRC Policy & Strategy Coordinator
Yesterday, legislation was introduced by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to help fight discrimination in civil and criminal law against people living with HIV.  H.R. 1843, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act, would require a review of federal and state laws that impose criminal liability on individuals with HIV and would provide states with guidance on best practices for revising these discriminatory laws.
Currently, perceived HIV exposure is criminalized in 32 states and 2 U.S. territories. These laws were originally intended to criminalize the actions of individuals that intentionally infect others with HIV, but have been applied far beyond that limited purpose. The behaviors criminalized in many of these laws pose no measureable risk of HIV transmission and therefore should not place individuals living with HIV at risk of felony charges and harsh penalties greatly disproportionate to any potential harm.  Furthermore, because knowledge of one’s HIV status is used in many cases as evidence for conviction, these laws discourage individuals from getting tested and contribute to the spread of HIV.
Despite societal progress in understanding HIV, people living with the virus still regularly encounter stigma, stereotyping and discrimination.  Antiquated laws that target people living with HIV should be revised to promote public health goals and evidence-based HIV prevention strategies.
To learn more about HIV and the LGBT community, check out our issue brief.

Filed under: Health & Aging, Community

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