Republicans are incensed that the California legislature has decided to cut the penalty for knowingly exposing someone to HIV down to a misdemeanor.
California has passed a law that will make it so that it’s no longer a major crime to knowingly expose a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation on Friday, a move that has made Republicans in the state furious. That means that started Jan. 1, 2018, anyone who exposes their partner to the potentially deadly disease would only face a misdemeanor and not a felony.
The bill, SB 239, was passed on Sept. 11 and targeted a law that had punished people with up to eight years in prison if they didn’t disclose their HIV status to their partners. This would lower the jail time to maximum of six months. The law would also cut the penalty for knowingly donated blood infected with HIV from a felony down to a misdeameanor.
The bill’s sponsors say that the law was outdated and that it raised the stigma for those with HIV, and with advancements in medicine, HIV isn’t as deadly as it once was. In addition, medical advances have made it just about impossible for someone with HIV to spread it through sexual contact.
“HIV-related stigma is one of our main obstacles to reducing and ultimately eliminating infections,” Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), one of the bill’s sponsors, said according to a Los Angeles Times report. “When you criminalize HIV or stigmatize people who have HIV it encourages people not to get tested, to stay in the shadows, not to be open about their status, not to seek treatment.”
However, many Republicans oppose the bill, saying the crime should remain a felony.
“HIV/AIDS remains a deadly disease,” Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) said according to the Times. “Existing law provides accountability of those engaging in unprotected, risky behavior that endangers the life of another.”