US: Louisiana debates overhaul of controversial HIV criminalisation law

State task force weighs revising Louisiana law criminalizing HIV exposure

Some state legislators are pushing to change Louisiana’s HIV criminalization law, which mandates up to 10 years in prison and 15 years on the sex offender registry for people convicted of intentionally exposing people to the virus.

Advocates for changing the 1987 law say it is overly broad and results in false accusations and convictions even when no HIV transmission occurs. They also say the law relies on a flawed understanding of how HIV is spread, and that it discourages HIV testing because it shields people who do not know their status from criminal liability.

Proponents for keeping the law say it protects people from getting HIV, and that there shouldn’t be leniency for those who put others at risk of infection.

The state’s Task Force to Study HIV Criminalization, which met last week, is taking up those issues. The panel, which includes legislators and health care professionals, could ultimately ask the Legislature to consider revising the law.

Legislator members include State Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, who co-authored the House resolution that convened the panel; Rep. Vanessa LaFleur, D-Baton Rouge, and Rep. Wayne McMahen, R-Minden.

“I do hope the members of the (Legislature) will see the reasons for this change,” Freeman said in an interview. “It’s just to update a law that’s using old science.”

McMahen, the task force’s lone Republican legislator, said in an interview that he was open to updating the law but hadn’t yet made any decisions on what changes should occur.

“You want a pathway forward, but you’ve got to have guardrails on that pathway too, to protect both sides of the population,” McMahen said, referring to people who are HIV positive and people who are not. “This was a fact-finding, information-gathering task force. … then we need to see what we can come up with.”

It remains to be seen whether the issue will be supported by other lawmakers or by Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, the state’s hard-right attorney general who has promised to be tough on crime.

A Landry spokesperson said she could not provide comment by deadline. Landry is widely expected to call a special session on crime in January.

At issue is a statute that holds that “no person shall intentionally expose another to HIV through any means or contact without the knowing and lawful consent of the victim, if at the time of the exposure the infected person knew he was HIV positive.”

Convictions result in a decadelong prison sentence or a $5,000 fine, or both, with slightly steeper penalties for those convicted of exposing a first responder to the virus. Louisiana also requires people convicted of crimes involving HIV to register as sex offenders.

A defendant can only avoid conviction if they prove the person exposed knew the defendant had HIV and knew the act could result in an infection, or if they prove both that they disclosed their status and either a medical professional told them they were noninfectious, or they “took practical means to prevent transmission.”

Between 2011 and 2022, at least 176 people were arrested under Louisiana’s HIV criminalization statute. About 91% of those arrested were Black men, a population that makes up 44% of state residents living with HIV.

During last week’s task force meeting, Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, expressed skepticism over whether it was necessary to change the law. Bagley is not a member of the task force but sat in as McMahen’s proxy.

“With somebody that would pass HIV along knowingly, I wouldn’t have any sympathy at all for them, and as a legislator, I would never vote to change those laws where we’re going to allow those things,” he said. “Regardless of what is said it can lead to your death. … I’m going to take a pretty strong stance there.”

But other task force members who support changes stressed that an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence and noted that modern-day treatment options can make it impossible for HIV-positive individuals to infect others.

George Nawas, a clinical assistant professor at Xavier University, said HIV is the only sexually transmitted infection that Louisiana criminalizes. HIV criminalization may work against public health by reducing test rates, he added. In 2020, Louisiana had the fourth-highest HIV case rate in the country.

“(The law) is putting responsibility on people living with HIV if at the time of the exposure the infected person knew he was HIV positive. One of the things that we know to end the HIV epidemic is to encourage people. … to get tested,” Nawas aid. “So by someone reading this statute here … people are discouraged to know their status.”

Belize: Senate follows House of Representatives and votes for repeal of HIV criminalisation law

Law which makes it a crime to spread HIV repealed

Ву Ааrоn Нumеѕ: Fоllоwіng frоm thе Ноuѕе оf Rерrеѕеntаtіvеѕ, thе Ѕеnаtе соnѕіdеrеd thе аmеndmеntѕ tо thе Сrіmіnаl Соdе, ѕресіfісаllу ѕесtіоnѕ 46(а) аnd 73(а) соnсеrnіng сrіmіnаl rеѕроnѕіbіlіtу fоr trаnѕmіѕѕіоn оf thе humаn іmmunоdеfісіеnсу vіruѕ (НІV) whісh lеаdѕ tо Асquіrеd Іmmunоdеfісіеnсу Ѕуndrоmе (АІDЅ).

Іn thе Ноuѕе, Міnіѕtеr оf Неаlth, Кеvіn Веrnаrd, ѕtаtеd: “Рunіtіvе lаwѕ аrе nоt thе mоѕt еffесtіvе wау tо соmbаt thіѕ еріdеmіс. Тhеу саn, іn fасt, роѕе ѕіgnіfісаnt bаrrіеrѕ tо НІV рrеvеntіоn, trеаtmеnt, аnd саrе. Ву сrіmіnаlіzіng thе trаnѕmіѕѕіоn оf НІV/АІDЅ, wе run thе rіѕk оf drіvіng thе dіѕеаѕе undеrgrоund, dіѕсоurаgіng thоѕе аt rіѕk frоm ѕееkіng tеѕtіng, соunѕеlіng, аnd trеаtmеnt fоr fеаr оf lеgаl rерrіѕаl. Тhеrеfоrе, Маdаm Ѕреаkеr, thе Міnіѕtrу оf Неаlth аnd Wеllnеѕѕ fіrmlу bеlіеvеѕ thаt thе bаttlе аgаіnѕt НІV/АІDЅ ѕhоuld nоt bе fоught іn thе соurtrооm, but іn оur соmmunіtіеѕ, оur hоѕріtаlѕ, аnd оur сlіnісѕ. Wе ѕhоuld fосuѕ оur еffоrtѕ оn еduсаtіоn, рrеvеntіоn, саrе, аnd ѕuрроrt rаthеr thаn рunіѕhmеnt. Wе ѕhоuld аіm tо rеduсе thе ѕtіgmа аnd dіѕсrіmіnаtіоn thаt ѕurrоundѕ thіѕ dіѕеаѕе tо еnсоurаgе mоrе реорlе tо gеt tеѕtеd, tо knоw thеіr ѕtаtuѕ, аnd tо ѕееk trеаtmеnt. Аnd ѕо, dеfіnіtеlу, Маdаm Ѕреаkеr, thе rереаl оf thіѕ ѕесtіоn, 46А, аnd 73А, іѕ а ѕtер tоwаrdѕ а mоrе соmраѕѕіоnаtе, mоrе еffесtіvе аррrоасh tо аddrеѕѕіng НІV/АІDЅ.”

Іn thе Ѕеnаtе, Місhаеl Реуrеfіttе ѕuggеѕtеd аn ехсерtіоn fоr іnѕtаnсеѕ оf rаре аnd ѕехuаl аѕѕаult, роіntіng оut thаt а rаріѕt іѕ nоt lіkеlу tо rеvеаl thеіr НІV ѕtаtuѕ bеfоrе соmmіttіng thе асt.

Ѕеnаtоr Јаnеllе Сhаnоnа rесаllеd hеr јоurnаlіѕm dауѕ аnd nоtеd thаt ѕtіgmа аnd dіѕсrіmіnаtіоn rеmаіn rеаl fоr реrѕоnѕ wіth НІV аnd thаt а dіѕсuѕѕіоn оn ѕехuаl hеаlth аnd рrоtесtіоn іѕ nееdеd mоrе thаn еvеr.

Веlіzе hаѕ аvеrаgеd mоrе thаn 200 іnfесtіоnѕ frоm НІV реr уеаr іn thе lаѕt dесаdе wіth а hаndful оf dеаthѕ rероrtеd.

US: Kentucky removes felony penalties for people living with HIV who donate organs and for the possession of HIV self-tests

Newly legal at-home HIV test kits to be distributed

A new law taking effect on Thursday nullifies two HIV-related felonies in state law, and advocacy groups will celebrate by handing out HIV self-test kits.

What You Need To Know

House Bill 349 takes effect on Thursday, which decriminalizes HIV self-test kits

Advocates will distribute free kits Thursday in Louisville and Lexington

HB 349 also removes felony penalties for people who donate organs, skin or other human tissue while being HIV positive


Kentucky’s “HIV Is Not a Crime Coalition” announced it will hold events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday, June 29, to distribute free HIV home-test kits legally for the first time ever in Kentucky.

In Louisville, the kits will be available starting at 11 a.m. outside the headquarters of VOCAL-KY at 4th Street and Broadway. In Lexington, kits will be distributed starting at 1 p.m. at the AVOL office at 1824 Hill Rise Dr. Suite 100.

House Bill 349, which earned bipartisan passage during the 2023 legislative session, takes effect on Thursday. Among other things, the measure addresses two HIV-related issues: it removes felony penalties for people who donate organs, skin or other human tissue while being HIV positive, and it decriminalizes the possession or use of HIV self-tests.

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed HB 349 into law on March 31, and it has been hailed as one of the most sweeping HIV modernization laws in the nation, according to the Kentucky Fairness Campaign.

US: Nearly 200 people have been charged under Ohio’s antiquated HIV-criminalization laws

Ohio’s ‘unjust’ HIV-criminalization laws still in effect, state’s revised code shows


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio is home to several statutes criminalizing HIV, including a felony charge and prison sentence for those with the virus who fail to disclose their status to sexual partners.

HIV-positive Ohioans can be charged with second-degree felonious assault and receive a prison sentence of up to eight years for engaging in sexual conduct without divulging their medical history, Ohio’s Revised Code states. Ohio law also bars those with HIV from donating blood or plasma and penalizes those individuals for exposing others to their bodily fluid, like by spitting or biting.

However, HIV is not transmitted through saliva or unbroken skin and there are no documented cases of the virus spreading through spitting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those living with HIV also cannot pass the virus through sex when they have reached an undetectable level of HIV in their blood, achieved through medication estimated to be 100% effective.

These antiquated laws have more severe punishments than for reckless homicide, sexual battery, or arson, according to the Ohio Health Modernization Movement. The organization has led the movement calling for reform of Ohio’s provisions that “incorrectly assume an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence.”

“The impact of Ohio’s unjust HIV laws reach far beyond their original intention,” the OHMM said. “They are unproductive because they are unsupported by science. This has led to unjust felony convictions that punish not only the perceived perpetrator, but the community at large.”

Nearly 200 charges under Ohio’s HIV-criminalization laws

One hundred and ninety-two cases across 65 Ohio counties have been confirmed to be connected to statutes criminalizing HIV, according to the OHMM. Of those cases, 104 have been charged for spitting, 60 for felonious assault, 13 for solicitation, four for loitering and one for prostitution.

The OHMM argues the HIV-related criminal prosecutions, of which more than a dozen have been tried in the last few years, are costly. Ohio spends more than $1 billion a year to run its prison system, at a cost of more than $25,000 an inmate.

“The money spent to incarcerate people under HIV criminal laws would be better spent on HIV prevention efforts and supporting the over 20,000 Ohioans living with HIV,” the organization said.

Further, there is no evidence that HIV criminalization laws promote public health by increasing disclosure, HIV testing or practice of safe sex, the OHMM said. The laws have also had zero impact on rates of HIV diagnosis.

The OHMM has built a coalition with Equality Ohio, Equitas Health and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to call for significant alterations to Ohio’s Revised Code. The group proposals outline several changes including requiring prosecution to prove that a person intentionally transmitted HIV and switching all HIV-specific charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“Ohio’s six separate HIV criminalization laws are not based in science, they do not promote public health, and they perpetuate dangerous stigma against people living with HIV,” the organization said. “The time to modernize Ohio’s HIV laws is now.”

Thousands in Ohio living with HIV

More than 27,000 Ohioans are living with HIV and nearly 9,000 are taking a form of medication called PrEP, according to data from AIDSVu and the Ohio Department of Health.

PrEP is a once-daily pill taken to reduce a patient’s likelihood of developing HIV from sex or injection drug use. PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed, according to the CDC.

There are two pills available for use as PrEP: Truvada and Descovy. Truvada is for patients at risk through sex or injection drug use, while Descovy is for patients only at risk through sex. PrEP can also be taken through a shot known as Apretude.

Data shows the number of PrEP prescriptions in Ohio has been steadily increasing while the rate of transmission has been slowly decreasing over the past decade.

However, a federal ruling recently struck down provisions requiring health insurance to provide free preventative care services, like PrEP. In response to the ruling, the Justice Department requested a court order to halt the decision while the case is appealed. In the interim, insurers and employers are able to decide whether to continue covering preventative healthcare.

Still, programs have been established that provide PrEP for free or at a reduced cost. Learn more here.

Belize: Government approves amendment to outdated section of the Criminal Code related to HIV transmission

Belize Govt to amend legislation dealing with HIV transmission

The Belize government is to seek parliamentary approval to amend a section of the Criminal Code as it relates to HIV transmission from mother to child.

The Ministry of Human Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness had proposed that there be a change to the legislation that currently allows an HIV-positive person knowingly engaging in risky sexual behaviour and infecting another carries a penalty and that included mother to child transmission.

Human Development Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia said 22 years ago, Parliament  passed a law making it a criminal offense to what “we would say knowingly transmit HIV.

“Now, back then, HIV was quite frightening because it was before the days of the anti-retroviral medications and before we learnt more about the human rights approach as we call it. So we did pass an amendment to the Criminal Code, making it an offense to know that you have HIV and to be engaging in risky sexual behaviour. So we went ahead and did that.”

But  Balderamos-Garcia said after many years later, health authorities here have come to realise not only that it was unnecessary, but also that it flies in the face of modern human rights norms, especially as it comes to the health issues.

“So the Ministry of Human Development, myself, and also Minister Kevin Bernard and the Ministry of Health, we decided – of course based on the recommendation of partners – that it is really time to remove [it]”.

“What it did was it attracts unnecessary attention and further stigmatises the issue of HIV. I mean there are other sexually transmitted infections which are in the mix, if we could say, but it wasn’t necessary to cause the stigma and discrimination further on the HIV.”

Balderamos-Garcia said other sections of the Criminal Code can suffice where somebody does something very reckless or deliberate, but in relation to what has happened now in the evolution of the fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, “it is not necessary to have that law now for the certification, as they call it and the validation that we are removing the mother to child transmission of HIV then in terms of the international norms, we have to remove that penal provision.

“So we are very pleased to do it and I can report that Cabinet has approved and it is a joint paper of the Ministry of Human Development and the Ministry of Health,” she told reporters.

New HIV Justice Academy content: Lessons from the Central African Republic’s HIV law reform success

In the mid-2000s, many countries across Africa adopted HIV laws. Many of these laws contained important protections covering discrimination, privacy, and access to medications. Unfortunately, they also included overly broad and ill-informed HIV criminalisation provisions.

The Central Africa Republic (CAR) adopted an HIV law in 2006 which not only criminalised HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission, it also required people living with HIV to undergo treatment as prescribed by a doctor and engage in protected sex and an obligation to disclose their HIV-positive status to sexual partners.

Given the significant problems with these aspects of the law, multiple law reform attempts were made but none were successful until a new law – Law 22-016 on HIV and AIDS in the Central African Republic – was finally enacted on 18 November 2022.

How did it happen? What changed? Why was the law finally reformed?

Christian Tshimbalanga is a lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo with many years’ experience working on human rights and HIV in Africa. Through his work with UNAIDS, Christian provided critical support to the law reform process following it through until Parliament voted on the law. Cécile Kazatchkine (Senior Policy Analyst at the HIV Legal Network) asked Christian to share lessons learned to help others working to reform problematic HIV laws.

Their 25 minute, French-language audio conversation is now available as an additional case study in Chapter 5 of the HIV Justice Academy’s free HIV Criminalisation Online Course: How to advocate against HIV criminalisation. A translated transcript of the conversation is also available in the English, Spanish and Russian version of the course.

Christian’s role was to accompany the process until the law was voted on in Parliament. Several elements of Christian’s account stood out for us:

  • In his role as an UNAIDS representative and technical partner, Christian was able to devote significant time to the law reform process, monitoring what was happening and pushing the bill through each stage of the process. Having a dedicated person on the ground to accompany the legislative process on a day-to-day basis was critical to the success.
  • Civil society was a key partner. The Central African Network of People Living with HIV (RECAPEV) and the Central African Network on Ethics and Rights (RCED) pushed hard for the law to be revised. UNAIDS provided them with a small amount of financial support which enabled them to increase their capacity to sustain this advocacy.
  • Local partners and international organisations were also partners in the law reform efforts, including the National AIDS Council (CNLS), the Ministry of Health and the Minister of Justice, as well as UNDP, UNAIDS, and the French Red Cross (the principal recipient of Global Fund funding in CAR).
  • A memorandum outlining the new bill was drafted by various stakeholders including civil society. It informed parliamentarians about the relevant public health and human rights issues and the scientific evidence related to HIV.
  • Following the example of a previous forum in Madagascar on a draft law on sexual and reproductive health, a forum was organised for (primarily male) parliamentarians and their (female) spouses. Because issues of this intimate nature are often discussed in the home, involving spouses was strategic. Several people living with HIV opened the forum by talking about their lived realities and the persistence of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in CAR.

While worthy of celebration, the new legislation is not a complete victory. It does not fully decriminalise HIV but it does provide a much narrower definition of the prohibited conduct. Under the 2006 law, a person living with HIV could be prosecuted simply for HIV ‘exposure’ without neither intent nor transmission. The 2022 Act criminalises “intentional transmission of the virus,” defined as, inter alia, the fact that a person who knows his or her status intentionally transmits the virus through unprotected sexual relations without disclosing his or her seropositivity. A list of circumstances where the criminal law should not be applied is also included (e.g., in the case of transmission of the virus from a mother to her child).

For more information on the 2022 Act, see the HIV Justice Network’s Global HIV Criminalisation Database.

To enrol in the HIV Criminalisation Online Course, visit the HIV Justice Academy and sign up.  It’s free!





US: Tennessee changes its criminal exposure law

News Release from CHLP: Exposure to HIV Removed from Offenses Requiring Sex Offender Registration in Tennessee

Exposure to HIV Removed from Offenses Requiring Sex Offender Registration in Tennessee

People living with HIV convicted of criminal exposure can request to terminate registration requirements with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

(NEW YORK) – On May 17, 2023, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Senate Bill 0807/House Bill 832 into law after it passed the House and Senate in April. The law removes criminal exposure to HIV from the list of violent sexual offenses where a conviction required an individual to register as a sex offender for life. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2023. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Bud Hulsey.

Tennessee is one of 30 states that have HIV-specific criminal laws. Under current Tennessee law, people living with HIV (PLHIV) or hepatitis B or C may still be charged and convicted of a felony for engaging in sexual activities without disclosing their status. While the amended law removes the heightened penalty for exposure, it does not remove aggravated prostitution from the list of violent sexual offenses requiring registration as a sex offender, so there remains a heightened penalty for PLHIV who know their status to engage in sex work.

“This change is a win for people living with HIV in Tennessee who are on the registry for life for an exposure conviction,” said CHLP Staff Attorney Jada Hicks. “Forcing people living with HIV to register as sex offenders for consensual sexual activity further criminalizes them and does nothing to enhance public safety. It is past time that stigmatizing HIV laws in Tennessee and other states catch up with the science of HIV transmission.”

As of April 2022, more than 70 people were on Tennessee’s registry for an HIV exposure charge. With the passage of SB 0807, anyone convicted of criminal exposure to HIV prior to July 1, 2023, may file a request to terminate registration requirements with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

“The law that Governor Lee signed is about to change my life. For the past 16 years I’ve been depressed, looking over my shoulder, and just being scared of messing up,” said Tennessee advocate Lashanda Salinas. “This law is going to finally let me have my life back. I can see family, my cousins, and attend family reunions and participate in things.”

Republican Rep. Bob Ramsey, who sponsored the House version of the bill, argued that the laws needed to be updated “to look at this disease in a more realistic light and try to destigmatize it so that we could identify it and treat it, more so than trying to punish it.”

Those registered as sex offenders for a conviction of criminal exposure to HIV who wish to have their names removed can do so through a fingerprint-based state and federal criminal history check process to determine whether additional convictions exist for sexual offenses or violent sexual offenses. If the requirements of the amendment are satisfied, TBI will remove the individual from the registry and notify them that they are no longer required to comply with the registration requirements.

If the TBI determines that the person would be required to register even if the offense had been committed on or after July 1, 2023, or that they had been convicted of any additional sexual offenses or violent sexual offenses during the period of registration, then they must remain on the registry. Under the bill, the TBI’s decisions can be appealed, allowing for judicial review by the courts.

US: Bill to reform Indiana HIV criminalisation law fails to clear the state’s Senate

Reform of HIV Criminalization Laws Gaining Traction in Indiana but Not Yet There

By Rasha Aly

The latest attempt to modernize Indiana’s antiquated HIV criminalization law has failed. Though state House representatives passed Indiana House Bill 1198, it did not clear the state’s Senate.

However, this does not stop HIV Modernization Movement-Indiana (HMMI) and other advocates for people living with HIV (PLWH) from fighting for change. As Carrie Foote―who chairs HMMI―told TheBody, these laws “don’t reflect modern science.” Though that is undeniable, she and her colleagues will have to wait until next year’s legislative cycle to see if reform will pass.

Given bipartisan support for HIV criminalization reform―HB 1198’s co-authors are GOP state representatives Wendy McNamara (R-District 76), Edward Clere (R-District 73), Sharon Negele (R-District 13), and Ann Vermillion (R-District 31), with the sponsorship of Republican state Sen. Susan Glick (R-District 13)―their chances appear favorable.

Confronting Flawed HIV Criminalization Laws and Policies

As written, the bill would somewhat mitigate a law that Indiana officials passed in 1988. That law empowers police officers to upgrade the act of placing bodily fluids on another person to a more serious offense when HIV is involved. So, if a PLWH spits on another person, police officers automatically enhance the repercussions, elevating the minor charge to a felony charge. The repercussions become more severe if the person exposed to fluids is a law enforcement officer.

If HB 1198―which died in the state Senate on Thursday―had passed, officials would have done away with the heftier charge for PLWH who spit on other people or put any other bodily fluid on another person except for blood. The bill’s written text reads that it would remove “certain sentencing enhancements for battery and malicious mischief that relate to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Repeals certain offenses concerning the donation, sale, or transfer of blood or semen that contains HIV.”

In other words, PLWH would have faced the same charges as people who are seronegative if they spat on a police officer. Although HB 1198 would have eliminated felony enhancements for spit, Foote noted that officials retained the felony enhancements when the bodily fluid involved blood.

HB 1198 would also have changed the legal standard toward PLWH who donate blood. Under the current law, PLWH who donate blood can be charged with a felony offense, even if they have not yet been diagnosed and are, therefore, unaware of their serostatus. As McNamara has noted in her remarks on the matter, under the current law, over the past 20 years, police officers have charged 15 PLWH who donated blood―even though medical officials and blood-safety experts say current testing protocols screen blood and prevent any donations that contain the HIV virus from being used.

HIV Criminalization Laws Are Anti-Science and Likely Violate the ADA

As Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s memo on blood draws notes, if blood samples test positive for illnesses such as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, and the human T-lymphotropic virus, blood bank officials will not use the blood. Furthermore, someone from the organization will notify any donors whose blood tests positive to let them know about their STI status and also inform them that they can no longer donate blood.

Foote, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, notes that HIV criminalization laws benefit no one. Most of these laws were passed in the 1980s and 1990s when Americans, including the medical and scientific community until the mid-’80s, did not know much about how HIV was transmitted. “It was a totally different world in the 1980s,” she said. “There was a lot of fear, a lot of stigma.”

Since that time, the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy explains, it has become widely known that “people only transmit HIV if a person’s bloodstream comes in contact with certain fluids of a person living with HIV … through a mucous membrane (found in the rectum, vagina, mouth or tip of the penis), through open cuts or sores, or by direct injection (from a needle or syringe).”

So, “why are we stigmatizing these people with the virus?” Foote asked while pointing out that the state’s current law disregards scientific advancements and unfairly targets a historically marginalized population―PLWH.

Melissa Keyes, the executive director for In diana Disability Rights, agrees with this assessment. She wrote and submitted a letter to Indiana’s legislature explaining why the old-fashioned regulations are not needed. Keyes told TheBody that her organization is not a lobbying group and is neutral toward HB 1198, but she wrote its letter to educate lawmakers. She also noted that the state’s current HIV criminalization laws could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As Indiana Disability Rights’ letter explained, “Laws criminalizing people living with HIV without basis in current objective scientific evidence risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments. Indiana’s HIV criminalization laws based on this outdated science may constitute disability discrimination because the laws expressly treat people living with HIV differently from others engaging in the same behaviors.”

Attempts at HIV Decriminalization and Reform Are Not Over

Activists looking to improve the lives of PLWH have been trying since 2019 to revise Indiana’s outdated laws. They tried five times, including introducing two House bills in 2022. This year would be the sixth attempt.

Three of those five attempts failed outright, with the first endeavor at eliminating stigmatizing language (HB 1325 in 2019) not even making it out of a Senate committee. The second try―HB 1158, which would have repealed the notification requirement health officers must make if they believe someone has been exposed to HIV―also died, this time in 2022.

These notifications, Foote said, “create mistrust between doctors and patients.” Sharing one’s status is already difficult without facing the added stress that a doctor may be compelled to share that information with others―such as the police.

The third shot, HB 1032, wound its way through the state legislature in 2022 but did not make it to the Senate. If passed, it would have removed “sentencing enhancements for battery and malicious mischief … offenses concerning the donation, sale, or transfer of blood or semen that contains HIV.”

Foote says that when bills related to HIV have made progress, they have usually involved changing the bill’s language. For instance, in March 2020, the state General Assembly passed House Bill 1182, which focused on changing the text in Indiana’s public health code. The new law eliminated the word “carrier” when referring to PLWH and instructed lawmakers to use the phrase “individual with a communicable disease” instead. Additionally, state legislatures substituted the words “dangerous” with “risk” and “spread” with “transmission” and stopped referring to AIDS as HIV. This reference addressed the fact that AIDS is a condition that occurs when HIV is left untreated to the point that one’s immune system is entirely defenseless―and is not a communicable virus unto itself.

Additional progress occurred a year later when Gov. Eric Holcomb signed HB 1340 into law on April 29, 2021. This law concentrated on Indiana’s criminal code and replaced the phrase “dangerous communicable disease” with “serious communicable disease.”

Although HB 1198 did not pass, Foote said that she focuses on the fact that “We’re making progress along the way.”

“Changing laws takes a lot of time,” she continued. “We keep plugging away and coming back. That’s kind of the challenge of lawmaking.” And as time has passed, Foote says that the movement to reform HIV criminalization laws has garnered support from a growing list of organizations, including the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Indiana Public Defender Council, Indiana State Medical Association, and the Indiana Minority Health Coalition. One reason why these groups have joined the cause is that Foote and likeminded allies constantly advocate for and educate others on the benefits of reform.

During the summer of 2022, HMMI conducted an interim study session focusing on educating lawmakers and various organizations about HIV transmission, including the fact that saliva does not transmit the virus. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council’s new support for HB 1198 signaled that the session was successful and that when the next HIV criminalization reform bill is introduced, it will have a greater chance of passing.

TheBody reached out to representatives McNamara, Clere, Negele, and Vermillion and Sen. Glick for comment on what inspired them to support HIV criminalization reform. None of the legislators responded to the request.

Kenya: People living with HIV will continue to lobby for change after disappointing High Court decision

“HIV is not a crime!” – People living with HIV disappointed by High Court judgment in HIV criminalisation case

31 March 2023 – Nairobi, Kenya
Communities of people living with and affected by HIV are disappointed with the Nairobi High Court’s decision dismissing Petition 447 of 2018.

This is a Petition was filed in December 2018, that asked that the Court declare section 26 of the Sexual Offences Act 3 of 2006 to be unconstitutional, void and invalid, and therefore struck from the law. This law criminalises deliberate transmission and or exposure of life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The manner in which it has been interpreted has caused harm to persons living with HIV.

On 20 December 2022, Justice Ong’udi in the Nairobi High Court dismissed the
Petition, upholding the law’s constitutionality.

“We are disappointed with the judgment. Evidence from across the world shows us that criminalisation does not prevent HIV transmission. It makes effective HIV testing, treatment and disclosure harder and it increases stigma and discrimination”, said Carlin Kizito.

The communities were particularly concerned that the law leaves women living with HIV vulnerable to unjust prosecution. “Women are usually the first to find out about their
HIV status when they test during pregnancy. Because of this, the law makes them vulnerable to prosecution because they will be assumed to be the one who brought HIV into the relationship even when this is not the case,
” said Jerop Limo, Executive Director of Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Program (AYARHEP)

Maurine Murenga of Lean on Me Foundation said that the State does not have the means to prove scientifically that one person necessarily transmitted HIV to another.
She said further, “Laws like this also spread misinformation about HIV. We’ve seen a number of women living with HIV being prosecuted for breastfeeding, yet breastfeeding guidelines state that breastfeeding is safe for women on HIV treatment. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends it.” Maurine further added that “HIV is not a crime or a death sentence. With effective treatment, you can live a long and healthy life. Effective treatment also makes HIV undetectable and therefore untransmissible. Testing, treatment and support should be our focus, not punishment,”

Bozzi Ongala of the Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Program (AYARHEP) spoke on the need for using science to improve laws on HIV, “We urge that there be a progressive updates in the law in response to Scientific advancements on HIV research.”

“We, the networks of people living with HIV are encouraged that the Petitioners intend to appeal the judgment. We shall continue to lobby the government to change the law. On behalf of people living with HIV, we look forward to positive justice.” said Patricia Asero of ICW Kenya.

  1. Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Program (AYARHEP)
  2. ICW Kenya
  4. Operation Hope Community Based Organization
  5. Network of People Living with HIV (NEPHAK)
  6. Lean on Me
  8. YPLUS Kenya

Mexico: Civil society urges Supreme Court to rule against the constitutionality of law penalising HIV or STI exposure

Changes to the Penal Code of Querétaro, would endorse “discrimination”.

Translated with, please scroll down for English version

Currently, the Penal Code of the State of Querétaro imposes penalties on anyone who “knowing that he or she suffers from a serious illness in an infectious period (…) puts the health of another in danger of contagion”.

Querétaro, 10 March 2023.- The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SJCN) should be careful, since if it were to endorse the constitutionality of the “Garrote Law”, approved by the Congress of Querétaro during the pandemic, it would be endorsing discrimination, emphasised Luis Felipe Zamudio, director of the Centre for Guidance and Information on HIV-AIDS (COIVIHS).

This is in reference to article 127-BIS of the State Penal Code, which establishes penalties, comparable to the crime of injury, for anyone who “knowing that they suffer from a serious illness during an infectious period (…) puts the health of another at risk of contagion through sexual relations or any other transmissible means”.

In this sense, Zamudio warned that Querétaro, like other states in the country, “criminalises with this article in its Penal Code, those who have a sexually transmitted infection or live with HIV, since the Civil Registries also prevent access to marriage for those who live with this health condition.

For this reason, Zamudio stressed that civil organisations are keeping an eye on what happens in the SCJN, as the decision taken by its plenary will have repercussions for all states.

“It would be endorsing discrimination and would lead to a very serious problem. This would also be a catastrophe in terms of human rights, because then we would be talking about the fact that the Supreme Court does not have all the experience it should have, and that is what the ministers are there for,” he argued.
He also stressed that part of the political agenda of COIVIHS is to repeal this reform of the Penal Code and will ask local deputies who are on the Commission on Health, Vulnerable Groups or Human Rights, as well as the Human Rights Ombudsman (DDH), to make a proposal to reform local legislation.

It should be recalled that recently, Minister Yasmín Esquivel Mossa had planned to endorse the constitutionality of the “Garrote Law”, however, after receiving opinions from her colleagues on the Court, she announced that she was withdrawing her proposal.

Reformas al Código Penal de Querétaro, avalaría “discriminación”
Actualmente, el Código Penal del Estado de Querétaro impone penas a quien “sabiendo que padece una enfermedad grave en período infectante (…) ponga en peligro de contagio la salud de otro”.

Querétaro, 10 de marzo del 2023.- La Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (SJCN) deberá de ser cuidadosa, ya que de avalar la constitucionalidad de la “La ley Garrote”, aprobada por el Congreso de Querétaro en la pandemia, estaría avalando la discriminación, enfatizó Luis Felipe Zamudio, director del Centro de Orientación e Información en VIH-Sida (COIVIHS).

Esto al hacer referencia al artículo 127-BIS del Código Penal del Estado y que establece imponer penas, equiparables al delito de lesiones, a quien “sabiendo que padece una enfermedad grave en periodo infectante (…) ponga en peligro de contagio la salud de otro, por relaciones sexuales u otro medio transmisible”.

En este sentido, Zamudio alertó que Querétaro, al igual que otros estados del país” criminaliza con este artículo en su Código Penal, a quien tiene una infección de transmisión sexual o vive con VIH, ya que, también se impide en los Registros Civiles el acceso al matrimonio, a quien vive con esta condición de salud.

Por ello, Zamudio recalcó que las organizaciones civiles están al pendiente de lo que ocurra en la SCJN, pues la decisión que tome su pleno, repercutirá para todos los estados.

“Estaría avalando la discriminación y se metería en un problema muy fuerte. Eso además sería una catástrofe en materia de derechos humanos, porque entonces hablaríamos de que la Suprema Corte no del todo, tiene toda la experiencia, que debería de tener y que para eso están ahí los ministros y las ministras”, argumentó.
Asimismo, subrayó que parte de la agenda política de COIVIHS, es lograr derogar esta reforma del Código Penal y se solicitará tanto a los diputados locales que estén en la Comisión de Salud, Grupos Vulnerables o de Derechos Humanos, al igual que a la Defensoría de los Derechos Humanos (DDH), para que realicen una propuesta y se logré reformar la legislación local.

Cabe recordar que, recientemente, la ministra Yasmín Esquivel Mossa tenía previsto avalar la constitucionalidad de la “Ley Garrote”, sin embargo, tras recibir opiniones de sus compañeros de la Corte, anunció que retiraba su propuesta.