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Senate Bill 239

We do not hear about HIV and AIDS much anymore in the U.S., unless it is regarding Africa and third-world countries, with limited resources to prevent the spread of the virus. Although, the deadly illness did make national news after an outbreak swept across southeastern Indiana in 2015, primarily the result of intravenous prescription opioid abuse. While new outbreaks in the U.S. are rare in the wake of both federal and state level efforts to prevent new cases, there are an estimated 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older living with HIV, including 156,300 (12.8%) who don’t know they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In response to the national HIV/AIDS epidemic, states had to come up with novel ways of preventing disease transmission. In California, the state legislature made it a serious crime (up to six years in prison) to donate blood after receiving a diagnosis in 1988. Then it became a felony (ten years in prison) to have sex with the mission of transmitting the virus to another. Soon, it may be illegal to intentionally spread any form of infectious disease in the state of California, STAT reports. Senate Bill 239, if passed, would make it a misdemeanor to intentionally spread hepatitis C or HIV. It is worth noting that 38 states have HIV-specific laws similar to the ones that SB 239 would repeal, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

While the existing law makes it a felony to donate blood, body organs or other tissue, or, under specified circumstances, semen or breast milk, if the person knows that he or she has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), SB 239 would repeal those provisions making the intentional transmission of an infectious or communicable disease, as defined, a misdemeanor.

“When you tell people that these laws single out HIV and only apply to people with HIV and not any other infectious disease, they pretty quickly see that it’s irrational and discriminatory,” said state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who introduced the bill. 

SB 239 has not met any real opposition as of yet, according to the article. Although opposition is likely, as Senator Wiener points out for relaxing penalties for intentional HIV transmission, given that the 1998 law for increasing penalties had huge support.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. Attorney Brower has over three decades of experience representing individuals charged with a range of crimes and in high-profile matters.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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