Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Wants to Change HIV/AIDS Laws
By KEVIN DERBY
A South Florida Republican congresswoman is urging the federal government, the states and local governments to “modernize laws and policies to eliminate discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., are the co-chairs of the HIV Caucus in Congress. This week, Ros-Lehtinen and Lee teamed up to bring out the “Repeal HIV Discrimination Act.”
“This bill expresses the sense of Congress that federal and state laws, policies, and regulations should not place a unique or additional burden on individuals solely as a result of their HIV status, and offers a step-by-step plan to work with states to modernize their laws,” Ros-Lehtinen’s office announced.
Ros-Lehtinen made the case for why the bill was needed.
“The fear and stigma surrounding HIV have led to a number of criminal statutes and penalties that do not improve public health,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Since the establishment of laws which unfairly penalize individuals living with HIV, we have made great medical advances that prove that antiretroviral therapy can reduce HIV transmission risk. My colleague, Barbara, and I are introducing the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act in order to help eliminate needless and harmful statues and regulations which only shame individuals without providing meaningful benefits for HIV prevention and care.”
“HIV criminalization laws are based on bias, not science. Instead of making our communities healthier, these laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred. Our laws should not perpetuate prejudice against anyone, particularly against those living with diseases like HIV. By passing this legislation, Congress would send a signal that discrimination and stigma have no place in our laws,” said Lee. “I am grateful for the continued partnership of my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, in the fight to ensure that all are able to live with dignity and respect, and to one day achieve an AIDS-free generation.”
The two congresswomen pointed to more than 33 states and two territories which, they insist, “have criminal statutes based on outdated information regarding HIV/AIDS.”
The caucus has more than 70 members in both the House and the Senate including Florida Democrats U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schult and Frederica Wilson.