This landmark piece of legislation reforms laws that unfairly criminalized people living with HIV and therefore made at-risk individuals less willing to be tested for HIV and receive lifesaving treatment that also prevents the further spread of the disease. The new legislation also serves as a model for other states to likewise revise their unjust laws regarding people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Foundation is especially proud of the bill’s co-sponsors, including EJAF grantees Equality California Institute, Lambda Legal, and Positive Women’s Network USA, as well as APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, and ACLU, and all of the organizations supporting the coalition Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform.
“This coalition educated lawmakers, LGBT communities, progressive allies, and the public about the need to change punitive California state laws regarding people living with HIV,” said EJAF Executive Director Scott Campbell. “We are committed to working with other organizations across the U.S. to continue educating about the need to modernize state and local laws that unjustly penalize people living with HIV/AIDS.”
Most laws criminalizing HIV-positive people were passed in the 1980s when there was still limited medical knowledge about HIV, no effective treatments, and tremendous fear surrounding the disease and people perceived to be infected or at risk. Stigmatizing people living with the disease quickly became politically expedient. Since that time, our understanding of the disease has greatly advanced, effective treatments not only extensively improve and prolong the lives of people living with HIV, but also nearly eliminate the possibility of transmitting the disease when used correctly. In addition, HIV-negative people have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a one-pill-per-day medication that prevents HIV infection. It is past time that federal, state, and local laws were modernized to reflect today’s scientific realities.