Senator Coons introduces bill to fight discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS
REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act would encourage states to repeal outdated laws
December 10, 2011 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at helping end stigma, discrimination, and
stereotypes that negatively impact Americans living with HIV/AIDS. The Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage
and Allow Legal ("REPEAL") HIV Discrimination Act, which would require an interagency review of federal and
state laws that criminalize certain actions by people living with HIV, will be introduced when the Senate
reconvenes in December.
It's simply not fair that someone having been diagnosed with a chronic, treatable medical condition should automatically
be subjected to a different set of criminal laws," Senator Coons said. "A disturbing number of state
and local criminal laws pertaining to individuals with HIV/AIDS are rooted not in science, but in outdated fear.
They run counter to effective public health strategies, discourage HIV testing, and perpetuate unfair stigma
and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS - people who are our friends, family, and neighbors.
Rather than recognizing that HIV/AIDS is a treatable medical condition, these laws perpetuate the idea
that HIV is a deadly weapon and people with HIV/AIDS are dangerous criminals. Our laws need to catch
up to our science, and this bill would take an important step in that direction."
Thirty-two states have criminal statutes based on perceived exposure to HIV, regardless of the actual risk of
transmission, and 13 states have laws that criminalize certain acts - like spitting - by people with HIV/AIDS,
even though it is not possible to transmit HIV by saliva. Aside from being charged under HIV-specific
criminalization statutes, people living with HIV have been charged under aggravated assault,
attempted murder, and bioterrorism statutes.
"The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act is a common-sense, no-cost measure that will help local states to save
taxpayer dollars by ensuring that criminal laws relating to HIV exposure are based on the best and most recent
science and knowledge about HIV, including the recent advances of effective HIV treatments," William
McColl, Political Director of AIDS United and co-chair of the Federal Working Group of the Positive
Justice Project, said.
"There is little doubt that current HIV-specific criminal laws do not reflect current knowledge about the actual routes,
risks and consequences of HIV transmission," Catherine Hanssens, Executive Director of the Center for HIV Law
and Policy and co-chair of the Federal Working Group of the Positive Justice Project, said.
I hope we can agree that something is terribly wrong when individuals serve less time for
vehicular manslaughter and rape convictions than for consensual sex while HIV positive.
Our national Positive Justice Project coalition supports this opportunity to review the many HIV criminal laws that
are an outdated waste of money when resources for survivors of real crimes such as sexual assault are so limited."
U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the legislation in the House of
Representatives in May. H.R. 1843 has 34 cosponsors. More than 150 HIV/AIDS, LGBT, military, public health, racial
justice, religious, and women's organizations have endorsed the legislation, including the Center for HIV Law
and Policy, AIDS United, Sero Project, National Minority AIDS Council, American Civil Liberties Union,
OutServe - Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Human Rights Campaign, American Academy of HIV
Medicine, Black AIDS Institute, American Psychological Association, Lambda Legal, and
National Council of Jewish Women.
CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-5042
Source: U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware
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