Russia: Bill proposing to abolish mandatory deportation of foreigners with HIV submitted for review

MP proposed to change legislation in favour of infected migrants

Translated from Russian via Deepl.com. For original article, please scroll down.

Fedot Tumusov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Health Committee, has sent for review to the Russian Government a draft law proposing to abolish mandatory deportation of foreigners with HIV. The deputy deems it necessary to allow them to be treated in Russia at their own expense or at the expense of their home country. In his opinion, this would protect the rights of migrants with HIV and save money of the Russian tax payers, as emergency treatment in neglected cases costs the government more than 200 thousand rubles. The Ministry of Health has previously questioned whether it is cheaper to treat foreigners with HIV than to expel them from the country.

The deputy Fedot Tumusov (“Fair Russia”) proposed to cancel the rule on deportation of foreign citizens and stateless persons with HIV and allow them to be treated legally in Russia. He submitted the relevant bill (available to Kommersant) for review by the government. The current law “On Prevention of the Spread of Disease Caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the Russian Federation” prohibits foreign nationals with HIV from entering Russia, their temporary stay, and residence. If foreigners who have been tested (not anonymously) are found to be HIV-positive, Rospotrebnadzor makes a decision on their undesirability to stay in the country. In the explanatory note, Mr. Tumusov points out that many foreigners with HIV, having received such an order, go into illegal status for many years.

Knowing that if they are officially diagnosed with HIV infection, they will be denied entry to Russia forever, migrants avoid such testing in every possible way, which contributes negatively to the epidemiological situation in Russia and countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” the note said.

In 2015, following a ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court, a decree was issued prohibiting the expulsion of migrants with HIV if their spouse, children or parents are Russian citizens or foreigners with residence permits in Russia. However, according to the deputy, the amendment prevents the majority from legally residing in the country. Mr. Tumusov points out that the current legislation violates the rights of migrants to medical assistance and contradicts the State Strategy of the RF for counteraction of spread of HIV till 2030. Among other things, the Strategy stipulates that Russia shall assist HIV-positive foreigners in seeking medical assistance and provide social support to certain categories of population groups vulnerable to HIV infection.

Fedot Tumusov notes that migrants with HIV who refuse antiretroviral therapy often end up in hospitals and intensive care units “in a severe and neglected condition,” which increases the burden on the Russian budget.

Mr. Tumusov refers to the results of a study by the Expert Group on the Health of Migrants in the EECA Region (EEG), previously reported by Kommersant. The experts estimated that the cost of a set of examinations, treatment and services for one person for 21 days in the hospital is 228,572.6 rubles, while the annual outpatient HIV treatment and examination costs an average of 83,084 rubles. Fedot Tumusov also suggests organising treatment at the expense of the country of origin or the foreigner with HIV himself. According to Mr. Tumusov, the CIS countries, from where mass migrant workers come, now fully provide antiretroviral drugs to their citizens during their stay in the labour migration. Thus, the deputy emphasizes, the adoption of the bill would not require additional federal budget expenditures; on the contrary, it would save taxpayers’ money.

According to the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, Rospotrebnadzor, 37,389 HIV-positive foreigners have been identified in Russia since 1985, when the first case of infection was detected, until the end of 2019. In the same time period, the number of Russians with HIV has reached 1,420,975. The EEG study draws attention to the high prevalence of HIV infection in Russia – 54.8 people per 100,000 population. In countries from which migrant workers come most frequently, the rate is much lower: 14.2 in Tajikistan, 13.2 in Kyrgyzstan and 7.2 in Azerbaijan. Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center, told Kommersant earlier that in the late 1980s, when infection was found mainly in people arriving from abroad, there was “some sense” in examining them and sending them back home. Within a few years the number of Russians who were infected far exceeded the number of foreigners. However, the practice of deportation, according to the expert, was supported by “ura-patriots” who believed that in this way they were “saving Russia from HIV infection”.

According to the Russian Federation of Migrants (FMR), about 1,500-2,000 foreign nationals are diagnosed with HIV status each year when applying for a work permit.

“Based on this, one can assume that a lot of migrants who do not apply for a permit may also be diagnosed with the infection, but there is no data,” says Vadim Kozhenov, head of the MDF. According to him, MDF “in general” supports the initiative of Fedot Tumusov, because “modern means of HIV therapy can make a person absolutely safe for others.

The Ministry of Health did not comment on the deputy’s initiative. Earlier, the ministry said it did not agree with the conclusions of the REG about the economic benefits of treating migrants with HIV.


Депутат предложил изменить законодательство в пользу инфицированных мигрантов

Первый зампред комитета по охране здоровья Госдумы Федот Тумусов направил на отзыв в правительство РФ законопроект, который предлагает отменить обязательную депортацию иностранцев с ВИЧ. Депутат считает необходимым позволить им лечиться на территории РФ за свой счет или за счет их родной страны. Это, по его мнению, защитит права мигрантов с ВИЧ и сэкономит деньги российских налогоплательщиков, так как экстренное лечение в запущенных случаях стоит государству более 200 тыс. руб. В Минздраве ранее усомнились в том, что лечить иностранцев с ВИЧ дешевле, чем высылать из страны.

Депутат Федот Тумусов («Справедливая Россия») предложил отменить норму о депортации иностранных граждан и лиц без гражданства с ВИЧ и разрешить им легально лечиться в России. Депутат направил соответствующий законопроект (есть в распоряжении “Ъ”) на отзыв в правительство. Действующий закон «О предупреждении распространения в РФ заболевания, вызываемого вирусом иммунодефицита человека» запрещает иностранным гражданам с ВИЧ въезд в Россию, их временное пребывание и проживание. Если у иностранцев, прошедших тестирование (не на условиях анонимности), выявлена ВИЧ-инфекция, Роспотребнадзор выносит решение о нежелательности их пребывания на территории страны. В пояснительной записке господин Тумусов указывает, что многие иностранцы с ВИЧ, получая такое предписание, на долгие годы уходят на нелегальное положение.

Понимая, что при официальном выявлении ВИЧ-инфекции им навсегда будет закрыт въезд в Россию, мигранты всячески избегают такого тестирования, что вносит негативный вклад в эпидемиологическую ситуацию в России и странах Восточной Европы и Центральной Азии»,— говорится в записке.

В 2015 году, после соответствующего решения Конституционного суда РФ, вышло постановление, запрещающее выдворять мигрантов с ВИЧ, если у них супруг, дети или родители — граждане РФ или иностранцы с видом на жительство в России. Однако, по замечанию депутата, большинству данная поправка не дает возможности легально проживать в стране. Господин Тумусов указывает, что действующее законодательство нарушает права мигрантов на медицинскую помощь и противоречит Государственной стратегии РФ по противодействию распространению ВИЧ до 2030 года. Стратегия предполагает, в частности, что Россия будет оказывать содействие обращению ВИЧ-положительных иностранцев за медицинской помощью, а также оказывать соцподдержку отдельным категориям уязвимых в отношении ВИЧ-инфекции групп населения.

Федот Тумусов отмечает, что мигранты с ВИЧ, отказываясь от антиретровирусной терапии, нередко попадают в стационары и реанимационные отделения «в тяжелом и запущенном состоянии», что увеличивает нагрузку на бюджет РФ.

Господин Тумусов ссылается на результаты исследования экспертной группы по здоровью мигрантов в регионе ВЕЦА (РЭГ), о котором ранее рассказывал “Ъ”. Эксперты подсчитали, что затраты на комплекс обследований, лечения и услуг для одного человека продолжительностью 21 день в стационаре составляют 228 572,6 руб., в то время как годовое амбулаторное лечение ВИЧ-инфекции и обследование обходятся в среднем в 83 084 руб. Федот Тумусов также предлагает организовать лечение за счет средств страны исхода или самого иностранца с ВИЧ. По словам господина Тумусова, страны ближнего зарубежья, откуда массово прибывают трудовые мигранты, в настоящий момент полностью обеспечивают своих граждан антиретровирусными препаратами во время их пребывания в трудовой миграции. Таким образом, подчеркивает депутат, принятие законопроекта не потребует дополнительных расходов федерального бюджета, а, напротив, сэкономит деньги налогоплательщиков.

По данным ЦНИИ эпидемиологии Роспотребнадзора, в России с 1985 года, когда был обнаружен первый случай инфекции, до конца 2019 года выявлено 37 389 ВИЧ-положительных иностранцев. За это же время число россиян с ВИЧ достигло 1 420 975 человек. В исследовании РЭГ обращает внимание на высокую распространенность ВИЧ-инфекции в России — 54,8 человека на 100 тыс. населения. В странах, из которых трудовые мигранты приезжают чаще всего, показатель гораздо ниже: 14,2 — в Таджикистане, 13,2 — в Киргизии, 7,2 — в Азербайджане. Глава Федерального центра по борьбе со СПИДом Вадим Покровский ранее заявил “Ъ”, что в конце 1980-х, когда инфекция действительно обнаруживалась в основном у приезжающих из-за рубежа, в их обследовании и высылке на родину «был какой-то смысл». Уже через несколько лет число россиян—носителей инфекции значительно превышало число иностранцев. Однако практика депортации, по словам эксперта, поддерживалась «ура-патриотами», которые считали, что таким образом «спасают Россию от ВИЧ-инфекции».

По данным Федерации мигрантов России (ФМР), ежегодно в стране примерно у 1,5–2 тыс. иностранных граждан при оформлении трудового патента выявляется ВИЧ-статус.

«Исходя из этого, можно предположить, что у множества мигрантов, не оформляющих патент, также может быть выявлена инфекция, однако данных нет»,— говорит глава ФМР Вадим Коженов. По его словам, ФМР «в целом» поддерживает инициативу Федота Тумусова, так как «современные средства терапии при ВИЧ позволяют делать человека абсолютно неопасным для окружающих».

В Минздраве инициативу депутата “Ъ” не прокомментировали. Ранее в ведомстве заявили, что не согласны с выводами РЭГ об экономической выгоде лечения мигрантов с ВИЧ.

US: Bill proposed in Missouri removes HIV-specific language from state law and reflects more recent research

Changes to HIV laws moving in Missouri Legislature, but anti-discrimination win proves elusive

The Missouri House overwhelmingly backed legislation Monday to ease access to drugs that can help prevent HIV infection, one of several measures lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates are backing in the Legislature this year.

Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, garnered support from 148 lawmakers, while seven Republicans voted “present,” sending the measure to the Senate. His proposal would allow access at pharmacies to pre- and post-exposure drugs used to prevent infection with HIV, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disease that disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men and racial and ethnic minorities.

Christofanelli said he has heard stories of people going to emergency rooms to seek post-exposure medication and instead being referred to a specialized HIV clinic.

“That’s really a disgrace . . . because these drugs can save lives,” he said. “And I believe that you should be able to access them wherever is most convenient to you.”

Stephen Eisele, director of the Missouri LGBT advocacy group PROMO, noted in written testimony supporting the bill that HIV/AIDS “disproportionately affects our (LGBT) community” and “affects LGBT Black people and People of Color in our state at even higher rates.”

Under Christofanelli’s proposal, pharmacists would operate with the supervision of a licensed physician and follow strict protocols. Patients would have to follow up with a physician and receive a prescription before getting more than a 30-day supply of the pre-exposure medication.

“I’m hopeful that some of our big pharmacy chains will be the first adopters,” Christofanelli said.

Representatives from both parties praised the proposal.

Even with the House’s passage of Christofanelli’s bill, there appeared to be little-to-no momentum in the GOP-led Legislature behind the long-sought Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, which would forbid discrimination in housing and employment based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This year, the Legislature is believed to have more openly LGBT lawmakers than ever; there currently are six openly LGBT members serving in the Legislature, including Christofanelli, who came out publicly as gay last month.

Eisele said he is asking allies to contact Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, chair of the House Children and Families Committee, to encourage her to hold a hearing on MONA, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles.

Eisele said in addition to MONA, his organization’s other priority this year is defeating House Joint Resolution 53, which would ask voters to amend the state constitution in order to ban trans children from playing sports on teams that align with their gender. The resolution has yet to be voted on by the full House.

Another change to state law, which advanced without opposition through two House committees, would remove statutes that specifically criminalize exposing another person to HIV without that person’s knowledge or consent.

The proposal, also by Christofanelli, removes the HIV-specific language from state law, stating an individual infected with “a serious infectious or communicable disease” would be guilty of a Class D felony if they knowingly expose that person to the disease; if the victim contracts the disease, the infected person would be guilty of a Class C felony.

The legislation doesn’t apply to airborne illnesses such as COVID-19.

Eisele, the PROMO director, said the measure would encourage more people to learn their HIV status.

“Our statutes make it less likely that individuals at risk for HIV will seek medical care because, if they do, they could face prosecution for ’knowing’ their status and transmitting HIV,” he said in House testimony. “This statute actively supports negative health outcomes.

US: Bill to decriminalise HIV transmission advances to the Senate in Illinois

Illinois House votes to decriminalize HIV transmission

The Illinois House Judiciary Criminal Committee advanced two bills Tuesday with unanimous support, one to decriminalize transmission of HIV and another to expand protections for survivors of sexual assault.

An amendment to House Bill 1063, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons, of Urbana, changes several Illinois statutes related to persons living with HIV/AIDS and its transmission. On Wednesday, the House approved the bill 90-9, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

Under current Illinois law, a person who transmits HIV to another person can be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV.”

The AIDS Confidentiality Act, meant to protect Illinoisans from having an HIV-positive status disclosed or used against them, contains exceptions allowing law enforcement officials to subpoena or petition for the HIV status of criminal defendants in order to determine whether they should be charged for potential criminal transmission.

“We would not put a law on the books today that will criminalize COVID for people who refuse to test, and people who know they’re spreading COVID but refused to test and refuse to wear a mask, we would not then criminalize people for knowingly passing COVID,” Ammons told the committee.

Her legislation would repeal existing laws allowing law enforcement or state’s attorneys to access the HIV status of an individual and would remove criminal statutes for the transmission of HIV completely.

“This is why we’re trying to change this law is because this is the only (sexually transmitted infection) that we have on the books that literally criminalizes certain communities and is specifically targeted,” Ammons said.

Witnesses testifying in support of the bill told the committee that the criminal statute has been used in 22 cases since 2012, and fewer than 10 times since 2017.

“HIV and our knowledge about prevention and transmission has dramatically changed in the last 30 to 40 years,” Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association said in his testimony. “The (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recognizes that a person who is HIV positive, but who takes medication regularly stays virally suppressed, is undetectable on their viral load, and is effectively no risk for the transmission of HIV.”

According to Hughes, the criminalization of HIV status poses a significant obstacle to public health by incentivizing people to not get tested or disclose their status to their partner out of fear of criminalization.

Under questioning from committee member Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, Hughes said that during his time working for the Illinois Department of Public Health, most cases involving the criminal transmission of HIV “revolved around communities of color” and had a disproportionately negative impact on those groups.

Mazzochi noted that after insulin, HIV medication was “one of our largest spends in the state of Illinois.” She indicated that she would support the measure as long as studies showed it would reduce HIV transmissions rather than increase rates once it became decriminalized.

Ultimately, Mazzochi and other Republicans on the committee joined the Democratic majority to send the legislation to the House floor in a 17-0 vote.

House Bill 1732, introduced by Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, expands protections for sexual assault survivors by amending the Civil No Contact Order Act. That law allows for “victims of non-consensual sexual conduct or penetration” to a receive a court order protecting that person, their family, household or someone providing them services from having contact with the perpetrator of the crime.

HB 1732 already passed the committee unanimously last month, but Hirschauer brought it back with an amendment. The version that passed previously allowed for family or household members of the victim to file the petition on their behalf.

Hirschauer’s amendment to her bill, which she presented to the committee Tuesday, requires a statement verifying that the victim consented to the petition for it to be filed this way. It also advanced to the House floor in a unanimous 17-0 vote.

Senate Bill 2277, which appeared before the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday, would also make civil no contact orders filed against those convicted of criminal sexual assault permanent instead of lasting 2 years. That measure was also passed committee unanimously.

Russia: Deporting migrants with HIV from Russia is not only inhumane but also economically unprofitable

State asked to stop expulsion of migrants with HIV

Automated translation via Deepl.com – For original article in Russian, please scroll down.

Representatives of the Regional Expert Group on the Health of Migrants in the EECA region called the current practice of deporting migrants with HIV in Russia not only inhumane but also economically unprofitable. Treatment of neglected cases, when a person hides their status and lives illegally, out of fear of deportation, costs the state more than 200 thousand rubles, the experts estimate. At the same time, if the law allowed them to live and be treated – at their own expense or at the expense of the migrants’ home country, a course of annual therapy would cost about 90 thousand rubles. In 2016, the ECHR already demanded that Russia completely refrain from discriminating against HIV-positive foreigners, but since then, the legislation has not changed.

The Regional Expert Group on the Health of Migrants in the EECA Region (REG) assessed the potential economic benefits of not discriminating against foreigners with HIV-positive status in Russia. The authors of the study concluded that allowing migrants to live and be legally treated in Russia “is not only more beneficial from a humanitarian and epidemiological point of view, but also from an economic one.

A 1995 law prohibits foreign nationals with HIV from entering, staying and residing in Russia. If foreigners who have been tested not anonymously are found to be HIV-positive, Rospotrebnadzor makes a decision on their undesirability to stay in the country. Experts point out that for fear of deportation, many migrant workers hide their disease. They do not take antiretroviral therapy and, in their serious condition, end up in hospitals where they cannot, by law, be denied emergency medical care. The authors calculate that if a patient were to receive the necessary therapy, the cost of treatment would be 83,084 roubles a year, or about 6,924 roubles a month. They note that these costs “with certain legislative amendments” could be paid by the country of origin.

However, if a foreigner with HIV infection does not receive treatment and, as a result, develops complications, inpatient treatment for 21 days and an antiretroviral therapy course will cost 228,572.6 roubles. This treatment option is covered by the budget of the Russian Federation.

The authors draw attention to the high prevalence of HIV infection in Russia, 54.8 people per 100,000 population. In countries from which migrant workers come most frequently, the rate is much lower: 14.2 in Tajikistan, 13.2 in Kyrgyzstan and 7.2 in Azerbaijan. They also cite a recent study by the Russian Ministry of Finance on the impact of HIV on economic and demographic development in Russia. According to the study, the annual loss of society from the uncontrolled spread of HIV infection is about 200 billion roubles. The researchers note that “one of the characteristic features of the current stage of HIV infection in Russia is the expansion of the hidden epidemic among labour migrants who are forced to keep their HIV status secret”.

According to the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor, 37,389 HIV-positive foreigners have been identified in Russia since 1985, when the first case of infection was detected, until the end of 2019 (these are those who have been officially tested). In the same time period, the number of HIV-positive Russians has reached 1,420,975. Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center, told Kommersant that given the ratio, the influence of foreigners on the epidemiological situation “is not that great. He said that in the late 1980s, when the infection was indeed found mainly in people arriving from abroad, there was “some sense” in screening them and sending them home. Within a few years, the number of Russians who were infected outnumbered the foreigners, he continued, but the deportations were supported by “hooray patriots,” who believed they were thus “saving Russia from HIV infection. Now, according to Mr. Pokrovsky, the main problem is economic, as treatment is lifelong, expensive and it is unclear at whose expense migrants will receive it.

“In order to implement the proposals in the study, the legislation would need to be amended accordingly. There is no doubt that this will meet with a wave of controversy,” says Mr Pokrovsky.

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Russia guilty of violating the rights of HIV-positive foreigners who were banned from entering and staying in Russia if they had the disease. The year before, following a ruling by the Constitutional Court, it was ruled that if a migrant’s spouse, children or parents are Russian citizens, he or she cannot be expelled. However, the ECHR insisted on a complete rejection of discrimination against HIV-positive persons. The ruling stated that Russia was the only CoE country and one of 16 countries in the world to deport foreigners solely on the basis of their HIV status.

Coordinator of charitable programmes of the Civic Assistance Committee Varvara Tretiak (listed by the Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent) argues that finding a migrant with HIV is almost impossible: people “just go into the shadows”, live and work illegally. The Committee more often has to interact with refugees with HIV-positive status. Ms. Tretiak tells the story of an Uzbek national who sought asylum in Russia after fleeing the country for fear of being prosecuted for homosexuality. He tried to obtain a work permit and underwent a medical examination to do so. However, after being diagnosed with HIV, the “road in the legal field”, according to Varvara Tretiak, was closed to him. As a result, he moved to a third country.

One of the authors of the report, researcher Daniil Kashnitsky of the HSE Institute for Social Policy, told Kommersant that the results of the study will be sent to Rospotrebnadzor, the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry. Rospotrebnadzor told Kommersant that legislation on migration policy issues has been “optimized” in recent years. The Ministry also stated that they had not made “any decisions regarding undesirability of stay (residence) of foreign nationals or stateless persons from March 15 until December 15, 2020. The Ministry of Health told Kommersant that the agency “raises big questions about both the methodology and conclusions of the study.


Государство просят отказаться от практики выдворения мигрантов с ВИЧ

Представители Региональной экспертной группы по здоровью мигрантов в регионе ВЕЦА назвали действующую в РФ практику депортации мигрантов с ВИЧ не только негуманной, но экономически невыгодной. Лечение запущенных случаев, когда человек из страха выдворения скрывает статус и живет нелегально, обходится государству более чем в 200 тыс. руб., подсчитали эксперты. При этом если бы закон позволял им жить и лечиться — за свой счет или за счет родной страны мигрантов, курс годовой терапии стоил бы около 90 тыс. руб. В 2016 году ЕСПЧ уже требовал от России полного отказа от дискриминации ВИЧ-инфицированных иностранцев, однако с тех пор законодательство так и не изменилось.

Региональная экспертная группа по здоровью мигрантов в регионе ВЕЦА (РЭГ) оценила потенциальную экономическую пользу от отказа от дискриминации иностранцев с ВИЧ-положительным статусом в России. Авторы исследования пришли к выводу, что позволить мигрантам жить и легально лечиться на территории России «выгоднее не только с гуманитарной и эпидемиологической, но и с экономической точки зрения».

Закон от 1995 года запрещает иностранным гражданам с ВИЧ въезд в Россию, их временное пребывание и проживание. Если у иностранцев, прошедших тестирование не на условиях анонимности, выявлена ВИЧ-инфекция, Роспотребнадзор выносит решение о нежелательности их пребывания на территории страны. Эксперты обращают внимание, что из-за страха депортации многие трудовые мигранты скрывают заболевание. Они не принимают антиретровирусную терапию и в тяжелом состоянии попадают в больницы, где им по закону не могут отказать в экстренной медицинской помощи. Авторы подсчитали, что если пациент будет получать необходимую терапию, стоимость лечения составит 83 084 руб. в год, или примерно 6924 руб. в месяц. Они отмечают, что эти затраты «при внесении определенных поправок в законодательство» могут быть оплачены за счет страны исхода.

При этом если иностранец с ВИЧ-инфекцией не получает терапию, вследствие чего у него развиваются осложнения, стационарное лечение длительностью 21 день и курс антиретровирусной терапии обойдутся в 228 572,6 руб. Этот вариант лечения обеспечивается за счет бюджета РФ.

Авторы обращают внимание на высокую распространенность ВИЧ-инфекции в России — 54,8 человека на 100 тыс. населения. В странах, из которых трудовые мигранты приезжают чаще всего, показатель гораздо ниже: 14,2 — в Таджикистане, 13,2 — в Киргизии, 7,2 — в Азербайджане. Кроме того, они ссылаются на недавнее исследование Минфина России о влиянии ВИЧ на экономическое и демографическое развитие РФ. Согласно его данным, ежегодные потери общества от неконтролируемого распространения ВИЧ-инфекции составляют примерно 200 млрд руб. Исследователи отмечают, что «одной из характерных черт современного этапа распространения ВИЧ-инфекции в РФ является расширение масштабов скрытой эпидемии среди трудовых мигрантов, вынужденных держать свой ВИЧ-статус в тайне».

По данным ЦНИИ эпидемиологии Роспотребнадзора, в России с 1985 года, когда был обнаружен первый случай инфекции, до конца 2019 года было выявлено 37 389 ВИЧ-положительных иностранцев (речь о тех, кто прошел обследование официально). За это же время число ВИЧ-инфицированных россиян достигло 1 420 975 человек. Глава федерального центра по борьбе со СПИДом Вадим Покровский сказал “Ъ”, что, учитывая соотношение, влияние иностранцев на эпидемиологическую ситуацию «не такое уж большое». По его словам, в конце 1980-х, когда инфекция действительно обнаруживалась в основном у приезжающих из-за рубежа, в их обследовании и высылке на родину «был какой-то смысл». Уже через несколько лет число россиян—носителей инфекции значительно превышало число иностранцев, продолжает он, однако практика депортации поддерживалась «ура-патриотами», которые считали, что таким образом «спасают Россию от ВИЧ-инфекции». Сейчас, по мнению господина Покровского, основная проблема — экономическая, так как лечение пожизненное, дорогостоящее и непонятно, за чей счет мигранты будут его получать.

“Для того чтобы реализовать те предложения, о которых идет речь в исследовании, нужно внести соответствующие изменения в законодательство. Несомненно, это встретит волну споров»,— говорит господин Покровский.

Отметим, в 2016 году Европейский суд по правам человека (ЕСПЧ) признал Россию виновной в нарушении прав ВИЧ-положительных иностранцев, которым при наличии этого заболевания был запрещен въезд и пребывание в РФ. За год до этого, после соответствующего решения Конституционного суда, вышло постановление, что если у мигранта супруг, дети или родители — граждане РФ, его нельзя выдворять. Однако ЕСПЧ настаивал на полном отказе от дискриминации ВИЧ-инфицированных лиц. В решении говорилось, что Россия является единственной страной СЕ и одной из 16 стран в мире, которая депортирует иностранцев только на основании их ВИЧ-статуса.

Координатор благотворительных программ комитета «Гражданское содействие» (внесен Минюстом в список иноагентов) Варвара Третяк утверждает, что найти мигранта с ВИЧ практически невозможно: люди «просто уходят в тень», живут и работают нелегально. Комитету чаще приходится взаимодействовать с беженцами с ВИЧ-положительным статусом. Госпожа Третяк рассказывает историю гражданина Узбекистана, который, покинув страну из страха уголовного преследования за гомосексуализм, просил убежища в РФ. Он попытался получить патент на работу и для этого прошел медобследование. Однако после выявления ВИЧ «дорога в легальном поле», по словам Варвары Третяк, для него была закрыта. В результате он переехал в третью страну.

Один из авторов доклада, научный сотрудник Института социальной политики ВШЭ Даниил Кашницкий сообщил “Ъ”, что результаты исследования будут направлены в Роспотребнадзор, Минздрав и МВД. В Роспотребнадзоре “Ъ” заявили, что в последние годы законодательство по вопросам миграционной политики «оптимизируется». В ведомстве также заявили, что не принимали «решения о нежелательности пребывания (проживания) в отношении иностранных граждан или лиц без гражданства с 15 марта до 15 декабря 2020 года». В Минздраве “Ъ” сообщили, что в ведомстве «вызывают большие вопросы как методология, так и выводы исследования».

US[Update]: Virginia Governor signs bill to amend HIV criminalisation law

Northam acts on final pieces of legislation from special session

RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — Governor Ralph Northam has finished taking action on legislation that passed during the special session of the General Assembly.

According to a release, he signed several bills, including measures to ensure schools provide safe, in-person learning opportunities, bans firearms at polling locations, extends eviction protections, and provide paid sick leave to home health care workers.
Additionally, Northam proposed several amendments to the state budget.

“Throughout this session, we have focused on responding to the ongoing public health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and moving our Commonwealth forward,” he said. “These new laws will increase support for Virginia families and businesses, ensure our children and teachers can safely return to classrooms, advance equity, and tackle systemic racism. I am extremely proud of the meaningful progress we have made to enact legislation as unprecedented as the challenges we are facing.”
Senate Bill 1138, sponsored by Senator Mamie Locke, updates several outdated criminal laws related to people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The reforms reflect contemporary public health knowledge and help to de-stigmatize these diseases.


Virginia General Assembly passes bill to modernize HIV laws

Published by NBC12 on February 20, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. — The General Assembly passed a bill this week that lawmakers say will modernize Virginia’s current HIV laws.

Senate Bill 1138, introduced by Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, also removes a law that prohibits the donation of blood and organs by people with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. A 21-17 vote along party lines pushed the bill out of the Senate earlier this month. The House of Delegates passed the bill Friday in a 56-44 vote.

The bill repeals a law that makes it a felony for HIV-positive people to sell or donate blood, body fluids, organs and tissues. Donors must be in compliance with the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act. This state legislation does not apply to national organizations such as the American Red Cross. The organization implements FDA guidelines that require men who have sex with men to defer from sexual intercourse for three months before donating blood.

The measure also removes HIV, AIDS, syphilis and hepatitis B from the list of infectious biological substances under the current infected sexual battery law, opting to use the language “sexually transmitted infection.” The crime is punishable by a Class 6 felony, which carries a punishment of no more than five years in prison or a $2,500 fine. In 2019 and 2020, three offenders were convicted of such crimes, according to data provided in the impact statement by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission. The Senate voted to lower the penalty from a Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Opponents of the bill spoke against reducing the penalty for such crimes. The House vote Friday included an amendment to keep the Class 6 felony punishment.

The bill adds language that HIV will not be included in the current statute as an infectious biological substance. It is a Class 5 felony to cause malicious injury by means of an infectious biological substance. The offense is punishable by five to 30 years in prison.

McClellan said current HIV laws put in place during the 1980s AIDS epidemic have proven ineffective from a public health perspective. She said they are counterproductive and were implemented years ago to receive federal funding.


February 6, 2021

Citing stigma and fear, Virginia Senate votes to reform HIV criminalization law

Deirdre Johnson first learned she had HIV when she was six months pregnant. She was shocked to learn that in Virginia, it was a crime for her to have consensual sex with someone without disclosing she had the virus.

“Virginia’s HIV criminalization law is rooted in stigma and discrimination,” Johnson said. “It targets people living with HIV and paints them — and people like me — as vectors of disease to be feared and criminalized.”

Johnson, who lives in Petersburg, takes medications so that she now is at no risk of transmitting the virus. Her son was born HIV-negative. She co-founded Ending Criminalization of HIV and Overincarceration in Virginia, and advocates for changing the state’s HIV criminalization laws.

The Virginia Senate passed legislation Friday that would decriminalize people having consensual sex without disclosing they have HIV, which advocates say will reduce stigma and improve public health. The bill, from Sens. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 21-17, and heads to the House of Delegates for its consideration.

Virginia is one of 37 states that criminalizes exposing or transmitting HIV to another person. States adopted these laws during the panic in the 1990s about how to prevent the spread of the virus.

In particular, states acted in response to a 1997 case in New York that drew nationwide attention. Nushawn Williams knowingly infected at least 13 women and teenagers with HIV through unprotected sex. This prompted fear of people intentionally spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, although there’s no evidence that a significant number of people were ever intentionally trying to infect other people with HIV.

The statute is rarely used. Between 2019 and 2020, three people were convicted of felony infected sexual battery and misdemeanor sexual battery, according to the Virginia Sentencing Commission. The misdemeanor offense carries possible jail time of 12 months, and the felony up to five years.

Senators were concerned that repealing this law would prevent prosecuting someone for intentionally, maliciously infecting someone with the virus. The bill would reduce the penalty from a felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor for someone to engage in “sexual behavior that poses a substantial risk of transmission” and transmits a sexually transmitted infection to someone.

Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, an obstetrician-gynecologist, said she’s had to be the one to deliver news to women that a person they were in a relationship with transmitted a disease to them.

“I cannot diminish in any way the consequences for someone who has intentionally infected a woman,” she said.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, 25,000 people live with HIV in the commonwealth.

Andre Leaphart pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense under this statute in 2017. He said part of the problem with the law is that it’s broadly written and can be used to prosecute people like him who had never intended to harm anyone. It doesn’t require transmission, and intent could be interpreted as the defendant not disclosing their HIV status.

After his experience, he advocates for improved HIV testing and outreach. He said the law can be a barrier to testing. World health groups have identified HIV criminalization laws as hurdles to effective treatment and prevention.

“This bill ensures Virginia code reflects current scientific understanding of HIV and promotes public health by alleviating the stigma and mistrust of health institutions,” Leaphart said.

A number of states in recent years have modernized their HIV criminalization laws. Changes include requiring intent to transmit, actual transmission or providing defenses for taking measures to prevent transmission.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, said he appreciates the mindset in the 1990s that led to this law. Then, getting HIV was a death sentence. That’s no longer the case, so Deeds said it was worth reexamining the law now to reflect the current understanding of the virus.

“The stigma, fear and mistrust that this law perpetuates contributes to negative public health outcomes,” said Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia.


January 29, 2021

Good news from Equality Virginia:

Senate Bill 1138 to Modernize and Repeal Discriminatory HIV Laws in Virginia Receives Senate Judiciary Committee Approval

Current laws disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, Latinx communities and other people of color

RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 28, 2021) – The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 1138 on Wednesday, a bill sponsored by State Senators Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) that would amend and repeal current HIV statutes that disproportionately impact people of color.

SB 1138 would create several updates to the Virginia Code limiting the scope of the law to prevent criminalization and eliminating additional punishments for people living with HIV when charged with a crime.

HIV criminalization refers to the use of laws and policies to target and punish people based on their HIV positive status. Virginia is one of 37 states with laws criminalizing the alleged potential exposure, non-disclosure, or potential transmission of HIV.

“These outdated, dangerous, and discriminatory laws disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other persons of color,” said Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia. “To ensure an equitable state for Black and Brown individuals and to promote public health, it’s essential lawmakers pass SB 1138.”

The HIV epidemic remains a significant public health issue across the country and in Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Heath’s most recent data, approximately 25,000 people live with HIV in the commonwealth. Data highlights that communities of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, people who use drugs, and sex workers are most likely to be impacted by HIV.

Despite only making up 19.5% of the state’s population, Black people represent 58% of persons living with HIV in Virginia. The rate of Black males living with HIV is 5.5 times higher than white males and the rate of Black females living with HIV is 15.1 times that of white females.

Meanwhile, the rate of Hispanic/Latino males living with HIV is 2.2 times higher than white males and the rate of Hispanic/Latina females living with HIV is 4.1 times that of white females.

Current state laws, some of which were originally enacted in the 1980s, do not reflect modern public health and scientific best practices, and disproportionately harm communities of color.

“Virginia’s current HIV laws are rooted in fear and racial biases,” said Deirdre Johnson, co-founder of ECHO VA coalition. “Criminalization increases stigma and harms marginalized communities. Data shows that these laws target and harm women of color, women who do sex work, and transgender women.”

Studies in other states highlight how HIV laws are enforced based on race and gender. A study by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law of Georgia’s criminal justice system reported that Black men and women are significantly more likely to be arrested for HIV-related offenses than their white peers, and Black men are nearly twice as likely to be convicted than white men.

“It’s critical we pass SB 1183 as we continue the important work to make a more equitable justice system for all Virginians,” said Senator Locke. “HIV criminalization undermines public health and helps fuel the HIV epidemic in our state. I am committed to working with my General Assembly colleagues to ensure current laws are repealed and modernized to reflect modern science and public health strategies.”

“Living with HIV should not be a crime,” added Senator McClellan. “We know current laws deter testing and create additional barriers for vulnerable populations. HIV criminalization is a critical public health issue that lawmakers can help solve by passing SB 1138.”

Last November, HIV advocacy groups ECHO-VA and the Positive Women’s Network-USA testified about current HIV laws to Virginia’s Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, a council charged with identifying and making recommendations to address laws that were intended to or could have the effect of promotion or enabling racial discrimination or inequities. The Commission was highly receptive to the testimony and agreed to include a review of the state’s HIV criminalization statute with a recommendation to establish a task force to examine the statute’s impact on racial and ethnic minorities in its 2020 report to the Governor.

“HIV isn’t a death sentence and it should never be a prison sentence,” said Kamaria Laffrey, with the Sero Project. “We know current laws are disproportionately enforced against Black individuals and disenfranchised communities. Passing SB 1138 is essential to stopping the inappropriate and unjust criminal prosecutions of people living with HIV.”

“We know the current laws are not effective from a public health perspective,” said Breanna Diaz with Positive Women’s Network-USA. “These discriminatory policies discourage people from seeking HIV testing and treatment. They create mistrust of, and alienation from, public health institutions and put people living with HIV at heightened risk of violence from intimate partners.”

US: Senator introduces a bill in Nevada that would modernise HIV laws in line with other communicable diseases

Democratic Senator seeks overhaul of HIV laws she says will help remove stigma

Sen.  (D-Las Vegas) has introduced a bill that would modernize the state’s laws on human immunodeficiency virus by treating HIV in the same way as other communicable diseases.

The bill aims to reverse practices established decades ago during the height of the AIDS epidemic — when little was known about HIV and AIDS — that have disproportionately affected already marginalized groups, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people.

“The priority for me is equality,” Harris said. “The goal is to remove the statutory stigma that was intentionally placed into our laws all the way across the country that’s done nothing but harm to those who have contracted HIV.”

The bill, SB275, would repeal a Nevada statute that makes it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct that is intended or likely to transmit the disease. Repealing that statute would mean a person who has contracted HIV and who engaged in such behavior would instead be given a warning as their first offense and, after a second offense, would be guilty of a misdemeanor — a punishment that is in line with the treatment of other communicable diseases, such as chlamydia and SARS.

“These laws were written back in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” said André Wade, chair of the state’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization. “Whenever there’s a specific call out of HIV, instead of including it as a communicable disease … then that, in and of itself, is stigmatizing.”

Wade, who also serves as the state director for Silver State Equality, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, explained that modernizing the laws is important because HIV is treated as though it is different and worse than other communicable diseases, even though it is not.

In 2019, the state’s HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program found that 11,769 Nevadans were living with HIV, with 27.6 percent of that group identified as Black, even though Black Nevadans comprise just 10.3 percent of the state’s population.

Laws criminalizing HIV arose at a time when little was known about the virus and treatment of the disease. However, as medicine has advanced, prevention medications have been created that eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. And public health experts have also learned that the virus does not spread through saliva, tears or sweat, or by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets or sharing dishes.

Samuel Garrett-Pate, communications director for Silver State Equality, said that outdated HIV laws have actually made it more difficult to contain the spread of the virus because of the stigma associated with the laws.

“We recognize that not only have these laws not worked to protect people from the transmission of HIV,” Garrett-Pate said. “They’ve actually been counterproductive … They actually discourage testing. They discourage people from learning their status. They discourage people from disclosing their status.”

Harris said she wants to encourage more testing, and an important step in doing that is removing discriminatory language in the law. Her HIV modernization bill includes provisions to update the language around HIV and other communicable diseases and to ensure that people living with HIV are referred to more respectfully in state laws.

Harris also noted the importance of ensuring equality for all through the bill, including for sex workers and inmates. The bill would repeal a Nevada statute that allows for the segregation of inmates who have tested positive for HIV — which would codify into law a directive from a February settlement between the Department of Justice and the Nevada Department of Corrections that banned the segregation practice.

The bill is also aimed at addressing the spread of communicable diseases as a public health matter, rather than through criminalization.

Existing law allows health authorities to take certain action to investigate and control the spread of communicable disease, including ordering a person to be examined for the presence of a disease and ordering the isolation, quarantine or treatment of a person.

The bill would require any such order to include the reasons why the ordered actions are necessary to prevent, suppress or control the communicable disease.

The initiatives come largely from the work of Silver State Equality and the HIV task force.

The task force — established in the 2019 session through SB284, a bill that was sponsored by now termed-out Sen.  (D-Las Vegas) — was created to address stigma surrounding HIV and to update HIV laws in Nevada based on how the public health understanding of the virus has advanced over previous decades.

Since its commencement, the task force has worked to create a report ahead of the current session that includes many of the recommendations realized in Harris’s bill. And with a provision in the bill that would re-establish the task force for the 2021-22 legislative interim, the task force could continue its work on understanding how Nevada’s HIV laws affect those who have contracted the virus.

Wade and Harris both acknowledged that there is more work to be done beyond what made it into the bill, but Wade said he thinks that the bill does most of what he and the task force sought to accomplish.

Harris said she has another bill, SB211, that would require primary care providers to offer STD and HIV testing to anyone aged 15 and older and that would work in tandem with SB275.

“Testing, testing, testing, right. If we learned anything from coronavirus, it’s, ‘go get tested,’” Harris said. “So that’s another piece. I’m hoping that’s going to work together with this modernization bill to break down some of those barriers.”

The HIV modernization bill is scheduled for its first hearing during a meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. Harris said she expects a positive response.

“I expect it to be well received,” Harris said. “The task force has done a lot of the groundwork on this… This is a result of months and months and multiple meetings with law enforcement, with [district attorney] aides, with communities of those who are living with HIV… with our health departments, with all of the stakeholders at the table.”

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US: Ohio HIV laws are antiquated, unscientific and harmful

Ohio groups push to change HIV notification laws

Some health and advocacy groups say Ohio has woefully antiquated and unjust HIV laws that harshly penalize safe sexual behaviors, increase stigma and discourage at-risk people from getting tested and treatment.

Ohio law requires people who know they tested positive for HIV to notify sexual partners of this prior to engaging in sexual conduct.

Failure to disclose this information can lead to felonious assault charges. Last month, a Dayton man, X, was indicted for allegedly engaging in sexual conduct without telling the other party he has HIV.

But the case has drawn the attention of organizations and advocates who say the state’s HIV laws are unscientific and harmful and don’t recognize that many Ohioans with HIV are not infectious.

“The laws stigmatize people living with HIV, punishing them for engaging in safe behavior, and the fear of prosecution makes it harder to get life-saving medical and mental health care,” said Kim Welter, director of finance and policy with Equality Ohio.

A spokesperson for the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said he could not comment on the case since it is pending.

Last month, X, 50, was indicted for felonious assault and possessing criminal tools in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Dayton police say X unlawfully failed to disclose he tested positive for HIV before engaging in sexual conduct. Police say he may have had sexual encounters with other people without properly notifying them first.

Ohio is one of about 31 states that have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, according to the CDC.

The Buckeye State and about 20 other states require people with HIV who are aware of their status to disclose it to sexual partners, the agency said.

But the CDC says many state HIV laws are outdated and criminalize behaviors that cannot transmit HIV, and they also can discourage HIV testing, increase stigma and exacerbate disparities.

People with HIV who take HIV medicine called antiretroviral therapy can reduce the amount of HIV in their blood (called the viral load) to undetectable levels, the CDC says.

The agency says there is effectively no risk of transmitting HIV when someone has an undetectable viral load.

People at risk of being exposed to HIV also can use pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (called PrEP), which if taken every day is 99% effective at preventing people from getting HIV from sex, the CDC says.

Ohio needs to modernize its HIV laws to reduce stigma and truly be grounded in science, because HIV is not a death sentence or a crime ― it is a manageable condition and should be treated that way, said Zach McCune, public policy and civic engagement manager with Equitas Health, a nonprofit that serves the health care needs of LGBTQ+ people in more than a dozen Midwest cities, including Dayton.

Ohio’s HIV-related criminal laws were passed more than 20 years ago and even then they were rooted in fear, ignorance, stigma and bias toward people living with HIV, McCune said.

McCune said Equitas Health has spent more than a year working with other advocacy groups and people living with HIV to help draft legislation to change Ohio’s HIV laws.

The Ohio Health Modernization Movement is leading the effort to change state law. The movement is a coalition of partners including Equality Ohio, Equitas Health, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and others.

McCune said their main goal is to reduce the criminal penalty for failing to notify of positive HIV status from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposed legislation also would make failing to disclose HIV status a crime only if the virus is actually transmitted and if there was deliberate intent to cause harm, McCune said.

“We’re hopeful we can introduce this legislation this year,” he said.

Some other states, like California, have taken steps to reduce criminal penalties for knowingly exposing sexual partners to HIV.

 

[Update]US: Georgia Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to modernise the state’s HIV laws

Georgia Senate passes bill to modernize state’s HIV laws

The Georgia Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to modernize the state’s HIV laws on Monday. The bipartisan show of support impressed HIV activists fighting for years to reform state laws that criminalize HIV.

Senate Bill 164 won approval with a 50-2 vote. The bill from Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, a Republican from Rome, passed on Crossover Day – the deadline to keep the measure alive for the remainder of the legislative session.

“We are extremely pleased that this bill passed the Senate with such a strong bipartisan majority vote,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “Frankly, it’s even stronger bipartisan support than we saw when the same legislation passed the House last year.”

The two no votes came from Republicans – Sens. Matt Brass of Newnan and Greg Dolezal of Cumming.

The bill now moves to the state House, which could refer it to the Health & Human Services Committee. Last year, that committee unanimously approved similar legislation, and the House later approved it by a 124-40 vote.

Hufstetler’s measure would require prosecutors to show a person charged with exposing someone to HIV through sex had an “intent to transmit HIV” and posed a “significant risk of transmission” based on current science.

Current Georgia law makes it a crime for people living with HIV to have sex or donate blood without disclosing their status, regardless of whether they intend to transmit HIV or pose any risk. It’s a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

State law also criminalizes spitting at or using bodily fluids on law enforcement or corrections officers by a person living with HIV, an offense that can carry up to 20 years in prison. Hufstetler’s bill removes criminal penalties for people living with HIV who share needles, donate blood or spit at or use bodily fluids on police and corrections officers.

The proposal also changes state law to refer to people “living with HIV” instead of “an HIV-infected person.”

The legislation keeps intentional HIV exposure as a felony, but it lowers the maximum prison sentence from 10 years to five.

Supporters of the bill hope to convince House lawmakers to reduce the penalty to a misdemeanor. Last year, House Bill 719 downgraded the crime to a misdemeanor, but it was reverted back to a felony by the time the full House voted on it.

“It is our hope that we can have some conversations about bringing it back down to a misdemeanor and not felony charges,” Graham said.

Graham is hopeful that the House will pass the legislation this session, delivering revisions to the state’s HIV criminalization laws that activists have been championing for nearly a decade.

“The legislature understands that the criminal statutes around HIV in Georgia do need to be modernized and updated to reflect the current science of how HIV is and is not transmitted. It is a critical step around broader criminal justice reform,” he said.

“It has had strong bipartisan support in both chambers, and I certainly hope that we can see movement on the bill during the remainder of the session,” Graham added.


12/03/2021 Published on WABE

Georgia House Passes HIV Criminal Justice Reform

The Georgia House voted to approve HIV criminal justice reforms Thursday. It still needs approval by the state Senate to become law.

Republican Rep. Deborah Silcox shepherded the bill through.

“It is my sincere hope that this bill will reduce the number of cases in Georgia and that one day soon, we can eliminate HIV in Georgia and in our country,” she said on the House floor.

Nearly 30 per 100,000 residents in Georgia were HIV positive in 2018, the second-highest rate in the country.

Currently, people can go to prison for up to 10 years for not disclosing that they have HIV in situations like sharing a needle, donating blood, or having sex. The new proposal would punish people with up to five years behind bars only if the intent to infect someone could be proven.

Democratic Rep. Sam Park co-sponsored the bill.

“HB 719 updates our lives to reflect best public health practices for preventing and treating HIV, which will save tens of thousands of lives in Georgia,” he said.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there were 571 arrests in Georgia under these laws between 1988 and 2017.

“It is time to end the fear and stigma. Too many Georgians do not get tested because they are still scared,” Park said. “It is time we do our part to help our fellow Georgians get the testing, treatment and prevention they need.”

“As we face a new pandemic, it is my sincere hope that we will continue to stand united to protect the lives of Georgians,” he added, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Republican Rep. Sharon Cooper pointed out when the bill passed out of committee last month, science about the virus has changed a lot since the laws were written in the 1980s.

“It is time for us to remove part of the stigma that keeps people that are HIV positive from getting treatment or even go to be identified, which then puts the rest of our population at risk for further infections,” she said.

“The law as it currently stands is really a holdover from a time when there was a lot of fear, a lot of stigma, and the science was really incomplete,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality in a previous interview.

“With the tools we have today to prevent HIV transmission, there’s no reason that our law should be as punitive and stigmatizing as the current law is.”

He said the change “goes a long way to fighting HIV in Georgia.”

Graham explained that two major health breakthroughs have changed things, specifically: access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) that helps prevent HIV infection and the idea — promoted by the CDC — that with treatment it’s possible to prevent an HIV-positive person from transmitting the virus.

Graham said the new bill would provide those living with HIV a “strong defense” if charged with the crime.

“Right now, the burden has just been on the person living with HIV that they did disclose their HIV status,” he said. “And how do you effectively do that? How do you prove what happened in a conversation?”

“The current law is dangerous,” said HIV-positive activist Nina Martinez at the committee meeting. “People assume it’s safe to disclose when people have been harmed or even killed for disclosing. Just because people don’t want to disclose, it’s not criminal intent.”

Additionally, existing law allows punishment for up to 20 years in prison if someone living with HIV assaults a peace or correctional officer “using his or her body fluids (blood, semen, or vaginal secretions), saliva, urine, or feces.” That section has been removed in the proposed reform, which also fits with modern science, Graham said.

“The science is very clear: people do not contract HIV through those sorts of bodily fluids [like saliva, urine or feces]. It really is blood-to-blood contact. Through sexual intercourse,” he said. “Those are the only ways that people are become infected with HIV. The science is really solid about that.

“It’s really important the laws don’t reflect simple untruths.”


State Lawmakers Move Forward With HIV Criminal Justice Reform Proposal

A panel of Georgia state lawmakers unanimously approved proposed reforms to laws that punish those living with HIV for failing to disclose their diagnosis.

Currently, people can go to prison for up to 10 years for not disclosing that they have HIV in situations like sharing a needle, donating blood, or having unprotected sex. The new proposal would punish people with up to one year behind bars only if the intent to infect someone could be proven.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there were 571 arrests in Georgia under these laws between 1988 and 2017.

As Republican Rep. Sharon Cooper pointed out, science about the virus has changed a lot since the laws were written in the 1980s.

“It is time for us to remove part of the stigma that keeps people that are HIV positive from getting treatment or even go to be identified, which then puts the rest of our population at risk for further infections,” she said.

“The law as it currently stands is really a holdover from a time when there was a lot of fear, a lot of stigma, and the science was really incomplete,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.

“With the tools we have today to prevent HIV transmission, there’s no reason that our law should be as punitive and stigmatizing as the current law is.”

He said the change “goes a long way to fighting HIV in Georgia.”

Nearly 30% of adults in Georgia were HIV positive in 2018, the second-highest rate in the country.

Graham explained that two major health breakthroughs have changed things, specifically: access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) that helps prevent HIV infection and the idea — promoted by the CDC — that with treatment it’s possible to prevent an HIV-positive person from transmitting the virus.

Graham said the new bill would provide those living with HIV a “strong defense” if charged with the crime.

“Right now, the burden has just been on the person living with HIV that they did disclose their HIV status,” he said. “And how do you effectively do that? How do you prove what happened in a conversation?”

“The current law is dangerous,” said HIV-positive activist Nina Martinez at the committee meeting on Tuesday. “People assume it’s safe to disclose when people have been harmed or even killed for disclosing. Just because people don’t want to disclose, it’s not criminal intent.”

Additionally, existing law allows punishment for up to 20 years in prison if someone living with HIV assaults a peace or correctional officer “using his or her body fluids (blood, semen, or vaginal secretions), saliva, urine, or feces.” That section has been removed in the proposed reform, which also fits with modern science, Graham said.

“The science is very clear: people do not contract HIV through those sorts of bodily fluids [like saliva, urine or feces]. It really is blood-to-blood contact. Through sexual intercourse,” he said. “Those are the only ways that people are become infected with HIV. The science is really solid about that.

“It’s really important the laws don’t reflect simple untruths.”

The bill now moves to the rules committee, which decides whether to move it to the full chamber.

US: Advocates face significant challenges in their efforts to update HIV criminalisation laws, but progress is being made

Three States See Movement to Modernize HIV Crime Laws

March 8, 2021  By Trenton Straube

Virginia’s governor is likely to sign a bill to update HIV crime laws, but AIDS advocates claim it doesn’t go far enough.

State legislators in Virginia passed a bill that will update HIV crime laws, including those involving disclosure and HIV testing. Although the bill improves on outdated laws and is needed to address racial disparities in the state, many AIDS advocates argue that the measure does not go far enough in protecting those living with HIV. Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is likely to sign the bill into law before the March 31 deadline, reports NBCNews.com.

The bill will update various laws affecting people living with HIV and certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For example, the bill will:

  • Make it optional rather than mandatory for people convicted of crimes such as prostitution to be tested for HIV.
  • Strike down a ban that makes it a federal crime for people living with HIV and STIs to donate or sell their blood, tissue or organs.
  • Update a statute involving failure to disclose before sex. Previously, as The Washington Post reports, under a 1997 law in Virginia, a person with HIV, syphilis or hepatitis who does not disclose before sex can be charged with a Class 6 felony and can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, regardless of whether transmission occurred. The new bill requires proof of transmission.

Lawmakers in the Virginia Senate had introduced a bill that lowered the penalty of HIV transmission—referred to as “infected sexual battery”—from a felony to a misdemeanor. After pushback from some legislators during the reconciliation process between the House and Senate, the final bill kept the felony charge (though it does require proof of transmission).

Vee Lamneck, the executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Virginia, told the Post that the organization wouldn’t support a bill that makes transmission a felony.

“The threat of a felony penalty is actually enough to deter people from getting tested and knowing their status,” Lamneck said. “We see this as a huge public health issue.”

 

According to the findings of a recent report commissioned by the Virginia governor, in 2015, African Americans were more than seven times as likely to be living with HIV than their white counterparts in the state, and Latinos were more than twice as likely than white non-Latino Virginias. As the Post notes, this means that Virginia’s outdated HIV laws disproportionately affect these minority populations.

Many of the HIV-related laws across the nation were put on the books in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when the virus was considered a death sentence and fear and stigma prevailed. Today, HIV is treatable. Most people with HIV who take daily meds are expected to live a near normal life span. What’s more, those who maintain an undetectable viral load are not able to transmit HIV through sex, a fact referred to as Undetectable Equals Untransmittable, or U=U.

Laws need to be updated to take into consideration modern science. Recently, in Illinois, as WICS/WRSP reports, state lawmakers introduced a bill to modernize laws related to HIV transmission. And according to Project Q Atlanta, Republican Senator Chuck Hufstetler is leading the charge in that state to update disclosure and transmission laws. In December, POZ reported on similar efforts by advocates in Nevada.

HIV advocates in many states face significant challenges in their efforts to update HIV criminalization laws, but it can be done. For one example, read the POZ article “California Governor Signs Bill Modernizing HIV Crime Laws,” which details the fact that as of January 2018 it has been a misdemeanor, instead of a felony, to knowingly transmit HIV or expose a partner to the virus without disclosing.

For a basic understanding of HIV crime laws, see “Criminalization 101”; for a collection of POZ articles on this topic, click on the tag #Criminalization. To learn more about the HIV laws in your state, visit The Center for HIV Law and Policy.

US: Repeal Act would modernise laws that criminalise people living with HIV based on perceived “risk”

Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus introduces bill to stop criminalizing people with HIV

Bill would provide incentives to states to repeal laws that impose criminal penalties for alleged HIV exposure.

The co-chairs of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus have introduced a bill to modernize laws regarding HIV and eliminate discrimination against people living with the virus by repealing state laws that criminalize them based on the perceived “risk” they pose to others.

The REPEAL Act, introduced by Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Jenniffer González Colón (R-Puerto Rico), comes as the public’s understanding of HIV and how it is transmitted — with the threat of transmission nearly eliminated if a person regularly takes antiretroviral drugs to maintain an “undetectable” viral load — has changed since the virus was first discovered almost 40 years ago.

Currently, 32 states and two U.S. territories have criminal statutes or laws based on perceived exposure to HIV, not taking into account the manageability of the health condition, or the reduced death rate that comes from compliance with antiretroviral medication.

Punishments for exposing another person to the virus, even if the chance of transmission is extremely low, include decades-long sentences and may even require HIV-positive individuals to register as “sex offenders.”

“Nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States today,” Lee said in a statement. “Yet, our laws and policies continue to criminalize HIV/AIDS and discourage testing for those most at risk by legitimizing stigma and discrimination. It is past time that we repeal these harmful and discriminatory laws and instead focus our efforts on promoting public health equity and public awareness. We cannot achieve our shared goal of an AIDS-free generation while these laws are on the books.”

For years, activists have complained about such laws, arguing that imposing criminal penalties for alleged HIV exposure discourage people, particularly poorer and less medically-literate people, from getting tested and seeking treatment, thereby posing a higher risk of transmission than a person who knows they are HIV-positive and is in treatment.

They also note that such statutes are often used to target individuals living with HIV and push them to the margins, even when the alleged behavior poses no risk of HIV. For example, a protester against police brutality who is HIV-positive and is merely alleged to have spit at an officer (even though saliva is not one of the four bodily fluids that facilitate transmission of HIV) could be prosecuted in an attempt to silence their criticisms of the criminal justice system.

The REPEAL Act would create incentives and support for states to reform their existing laws that criminalize people with HIV or mandate felony charges for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission. The bill also directs the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to review federal and state laws (including military policies) that criminalize people living with HIV and release guidance and best practice recommendations for states, and track the progress of laws to repeal outdated laws imposing penalties for alleged HIV exposure.

“Over the past year, Puerto Rico has reported 11,272 cases of HIV; an average of 2 new cases daily,” González Colón said in a statement. “As lawmakers, we not only have to create awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS but we also have an opportunity to advance legislation and allocate resources that will help individuals lead better lives. The REPEAL Act eliminates outdated and harmful consequences of dangerous and stigmatizing state laws that criminalize people living with HIV.”

NMAC, the national organization focused on combating health disparities for minorities as they pertain to the HIV epidemic, is backing the REPEAL Act, and praised the co-chairs for introducing the bill.

“The REPEAL Act will advance efforts to finally modernize laws surrounding those living with HIV/AIDS and, if enacted, will afford those Americans the right to privacy,” Paul Kawata, the executive director for NMAC, said in a statement. “We know that disclosure laws are rooted in an old model aimed towards punishing HIV-positive Americans. Those same laws create tremendous barriers for Americans living with HIV, including those serving in our Armed Forces. More importantly, these laws deter self-reliance health practices, which we know is the most effective way of stopping the spread of HIV.”

“This legislation is critically important and long overdue,” Joe Huang-Racalto, NMAC’s director of government relations and public policy, added. “No other medical diagnosis has a criminal element associated with it. Singling out HIV and prosecuting Americans living with HIV is morally wrong and terribly misguided. As we move towards ending the epidemic by 2030, we must continue to eliminate punitive laws and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS — an important step in that process is to pass the REPEAL Act.”