Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut; Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania; and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; introduced legislation Dec. 4 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 of 2017 would require an interagency review of federal and state laws that criminalize certain actions by people living with HIV.
“It’s simply not fair that someone with a treatable medical condition should automatically be subjected to a different set of criminal laws,” 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number of state and local criminal laws pertaining to individuals with HIV/AIDS are rooted not in science, but in outdated fear.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 members 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 our morals, and this bill would take an important step in that direction.”
Thirty-three states and two U.S. territories have criminal statutes based on outdated information about perceived exposure to HIV, rather than actual transmission. These laws often do not take into account the medical advances and scientific discoveries in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have affirmed that condom use, antiretroviral drug regimens and other prevention strategies can reduce the rate of HIV transmission. However, most of these laws do not treat condom or antiretroviral use as a mitigating factor.