Knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection is so wrong on many levels. It is also a criminal act. But California is taking a different direction as Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that lowers the crime from felony to mere misdemeanor.
The proposed measure also applies to those giving blood without informing the blood bank that they are HIV-positive.
The Democrats-proponents of the bill has this “justification”: State Sen. Scott Wiener ( D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria ( D-San Diego) said modern medicine allows those with HIV to live longer lives and nearly eliminated the possibility of transmission.
Wiener said further in a statement: “Today California took a major step towards treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals. HIV should be treated like all other infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does.”
Under California law, HIV has been the only communicable disease for which exposure is a felony. Wiener argues that the current law may make people reluctant to undergo HIV tests because, without a test, they cannot be charged with a felony if they expose a partner to the infection.
Wiener also stressed that ending new HIV infections can be accomplished without threatening people with state prison. He said it is more important for people to get the tests and provide them access to care.
Supporters of the bill also claimed that women engaged in prostitution are disproportionately targeted with criminal charges, even in supposed cases where the infection is not transmitted.
Proponents of the bill are conveniently forgetting, however, the side and welfare of the victims- something those opposed to the said bill is taking the cudgels for.
Republican lawmakers stood their ground and voted against the bill because it puts the public at risk. Among those who opposed the bill is Senator Joel Anderson of Alpine.
Anderson took to the floor during the debate and emphatically said: “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 regimen of medication to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony.”
Anderson stressed: “It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this.” Instead, he said the answer could be to extend tougher penalties to those who expose others to other infectious diseases.
Incidentally, last month it was reported that sexually transmitted diseases reached another record high, with California near the top.