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Group Pushes To Decriminalize State HIV Laws

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics

A coalition including the ACLU and Equality California held a forum in Fresno Thursday evening to talk about certain state laws, they say criminalize people living with HIV. Including, the possibility of being charged with a felony for donating blood while HIV positive, for soliciting and for exposing others to the disease. And most often that means jail time.

Craig Pulsipher is with the AIDS Project Los Angeles.

“These laws actually impede people from knowing their status, accessing treatments and disclosing their status so by modernizing or repelling these laws what we’re doing is decreasing stigma and encouraging people to know their status.”

They believe people should still be held accountable if their intentionally trying to infect others. But they think it should be dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor.

With the current state laws, a person can only be convicted of charges if they are aware of their status. And advocates say that creates a wall and encourages people not to get tested.

“Some of these sites that specifically talk about HIV criminalization laws, one of the pieces of advice they give is: the best way to not be prosecuted under these statutes is to not know their HIV status," Pulsipher says. "So that’s the exact opposite of what we would like to do. We want to encourage people to know their status.”

If they know their status, they can get into treatment which makes the person less likely to pass the virus to someone else.

The coalition has plans of proposing a number of bills in the next legislative year that would either repeal or modify certain laws. 

Diana Aguilera is a multimedia reporter native of Santiago, Chile. It was during her childhood in Santiago where her love for journalism sparked. Diana moved to Fresno while in her teens and is a proud graduate of California State University, Fresno. While earning her degree in journalism and minor in Latin American studies, Diana worked for the Fresno Bee. Her work as a general assignment reporter continued after college and was recognized by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2014, she joined Valley Public Radio. Her hobbies include yoga, traveling and reading.