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Media Contact:
Mikel Wadewitz
Director of Communications
213.201.1521
mwadewitz@apla.org
February 6, 2017

Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria Announce Bill to Modernize Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws

APLA Health and other organizations join in support of bill to reform outdated laws that have not been updated since the 1980s and ‘90s

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Today, California Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced a bill to modernize laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV. Assemblymember David Chiu is also a co-author of the bill, SB 239. SB 239 would amend California’s HIV criminalization laws, enacted in the 1980s and ’90s at a time of fear and ignorance about HIV and its transmission, to make them consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases.

The bill is co-sponsored by: APLA Health, the ACLU of California, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal, and Positive Women’s Network – USA. The organizations are part of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), a coalition of people living with HIV, HIV and health service providers, civil rights organizations, and public health professionals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in California. San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy also attended the announcement.

“These laws are discriminatory, not based in science, and detrimental to our HIV prevention goals,” Sen. Wiener says. “They need to be repealed. During the 1980s—the same period when some proposed quarantining people with HIV—California passed these discriminatory criminal laws and singled out people with HIV for harsher punishment than people with other communicable diseases. It’s time to move beyond stigmatizing, shaming, and fearing people who are living with HIV. It’s time to repeal these laws, use science-based approaches to reduce HIV transmission (instead of fear-based approaches), and stop discriminating against our HIV-positive neighbors.”

SB 239 updates California law to approach transmission of HIV in the same way as transmission of other serious communicable diseases. It also brings California statutes up to date with the current understanding of HIV prevention, treatment, and transmission. Specifically, it eliminates several HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh and draconian penalties, including for activities that do not risk exposure or transmission of HIV. It would make HIV subject to the laws that apply to other serious communicable diseases, thereby removing discrimination and stigma for people living with HIV, and maintaining public health.

“It’s time for California to reevaluate the way it thinks about HIV and to reduce the stigma associated with the disease,” Assemblymember Gloria says. “Current state law related to those living with HIV is unfair because it is based on the fear and ignorance of a bygone era. With this legislation, California takes an important step to update our laws to reflect the medical advances which no longer make a positive diagnosis equal to a death sentence.”

“These laws are outdated and only serve to fuel the spread of HIV in our communities. They also disproportionately impact people of color and women,” APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson says. “Our understanding of HIV has changed significantly since the 1980s and our laws need to change to reflect that. Updating these laws will reduce stigma and prevent people from going to prison simply because they are living with a chronic disease. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Gloria on this critical social justice issue.”

In addition to the organizations co-sponsoring the bill, other CHCR members supporting the legislation include the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project, the Transgender Law Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Free Speech Coalition, Sex Workers Outreach Project, and Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project.

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APLA Health’s mission is to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV. We are a nonprofit, federally qualified health center serving more than 14,000 people annually. We provide 20 different services from 14 locations throughout Los Angeles County, including: medical, dental, and behavioral health care; PrEP counseling and management; health education and HIV prevention; and STD screening and treatment. For people living with HIV, we offer housing support; benefits counseling; home health care; and the Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries; among several other critically needed services. Additionally, we are leaders in advocating for policy and legislation that positively impacts the LGBT and HIV communities, provide capacity-building assistance to health departments across the country, and conduct community-based research on issues affecting the communities we serve. For more information, please visit us at aplahealth.org.