US: LGBTQ groups share mixed feelings on bills that passed or failed through state legislatures in 2021

‘You gasp in relief, you don’t celebrate’

LGBTQ groups share mixed feelings on bills that passed, failed during the session

It’s easy to measure Nevada’s success in passing legislation that enhances LGBTQ protections when compared to the wave of anti-LGBTQ bills, specifically anti-trans proposals, that have been sweeping through state legislatures in 2021.

At least 17 bills were passed around the country that targeted trans youth seeking gender-affirming care and allowed for religious exemptions to providing services to the LGBTQ community — the Human Rights Campaign called 2021 the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

Meanwhile, Nevada moved in the opposite direction and passed legislation modernizing HIV criminalization laws, enhancing data collection around hate crimes and promoting a more inclusive curriculum.

LGBTQ groups following the legislative process have mixed feelings about the measures lawmakers took. 

“So many of the bills are just to be able to gain basic dignity and we’re coming from such a deficit,” said Brooke Maylath, the president of Transgender Allies Group. 

Maylath called those victories, including HIV modernizing, “bittersweet,” adding that “you gasp in relief, you don’t celebrate.”

But the bills that failed, she added, hurt more. 

While general LGBTQ-inclusive legislation was able to advance, two bills specifically enhancing protections for the gender-diverse community, one to ensure insurance companies cover gender-affirming procedures and another to require the Nevada Department of Corrections to develop policies around protecting and housing transgender inmates, died. 

“I’m stunned and bitter. I feel locked out in the cold,” Maylath said. “Part of it is Covid. Not being in the building has hurt everybody equally. For public health reasons, it was very necessary. But there are certain elected officials who are very good about listening to their own interested lobbyists and pay no never mind to those they don’t have a vested interest in.”

Andre Wade, the Nevada state director for Silver State Equality, said while he was proud overall of the work done during the session, “there is still some disappointment” around the bills that failed. 

“There are huge implications to trans health and well-being and the treatment of trans people in the criminal justice system,” he said, adding the fact that the bills strengthening those protections “stalled is disheartening and upsetting.”

Nevada, he added, still made progress, which he attributes in part to having at least four openly LGBTQ lawmakers. 

“Having 20 LGBTQ specific or inclusive bills from the jump is amazing in and of itself,” he said. “The fact that 50 percent have passed is amazing. The thing that is important is we moved from core nondiscrimination protection bills around public accommodations and employment and were able to get into the nooks and crannies of things affecting people’s everyday lives.”

The biggest difference between Nevada and other states, he added, was that the state didn’t “have to play defense like some other states when it comes to gross anti-trans bills.” 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there were more than 250 bills introduced in state legislatures in 2021 that target the LGBTQ community. 

The biggest clump of legislation were anti-trans, including: 

  • 35 bills that would ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming medical care;
  • 15 bills that would prohibit transgender people from accessing restrooms or lockerrooms consistent with their gender idenity;
  • 69 bills that would prevent transgender youth from participating in sports.

While Nevada didn’t embark on a similar path, groups agreed there is room for improvement.

“Are we better if we’re not looking after the most marginalized Americans?” Maylath asked. “Are we better if we’re denying human dignity to the people we’ve ostracized?”

‘Failed in some areas’

The death of Senate Bill 139, which would have required health insurance policies to cover “the treatment of conditions relating to gender dysphoria, gender incongruence and other disorders of sexual development,” hurts Maylath the most.

Trans and gender-nonconforming people share stories during the bill’s hearing about having to pay out of pocket for affirming procedures a health care provider deemed medically necessary. Procedures included “top surgery,” which includes breast reduction or removal, and voice therapy.

“I consider this common sense legislation,” said Sy Bernabei, the executive director for Gender Justice Nevada. “It makes sense that if there is a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and a doctor says, ‘here are these gender-affirming procedures,’ and (the diagnosis) is rooted in medical care and theory, then why wouldn’t we make it easier for insurance to cover these policies?” 

Both Bernabei and Maylath said the legislation could have saved lives. 

During testimony for the bill, Bernabei added when transgender and gender-nonconforming people don’t have procedures covered by insurance they are more likely to experience depression or be at-risk of suicide. 

Several fiscal notes were attached to the bill essentially dooming the bill’s fate. 

Clark County said if the bill expanded coverage for conditions related to gender dysphoria “assuming two reassignment surgeries per year, or one per 10,000 members,” it would cost $1.5 million over two years.

“In a $9 billion budget you can’t find money for gender-affirming procedures, which are actually life-saving procedures,?” Maylath asked, adding that trans people are already paying into insurance plans. 

“We pay the same benefits as everybody else yet the lifesaving procedures for us are denied administratively.”

After passing out of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor April 2, SB 139 was sent to the Senate Finance committee, chaired by state Sen. Chris Brooks, where it died without another hearing.

Maylath, who presented the legislation alongside bill sponsor state Sen. Melanie Scheible, said she reached out to Brooks multiple times but never received a response.

Senate Bill 258, which would have required NDOC to adopt regulations around housing, heath care and security for transgender inmates, also died. 

The hearing included letters from inmates and testimony for attorneys representing transgender inmates who detailed horrific allegations of abuse and sexual assault

“We’ve got this draconian system that preys on people of color and puts them into subhuman conditions and then denies basic human rights and access to health care and appropriate housing to keep them safe from rape,” Maylath said. 

The department attached a $1.3 million fiscal note to the bill. Maylath said the fiscal note was “inflated and unnecessary”  and called it “an administrative trick” to keep the bill from going forward.

NDOC also attached a nearly $4 million fiscal note to another one of Scheible’s bills, Senate Bill 22, that caps how much prison officials can deduct from inmate’s accounts. 

Brooks scheduled a hearing for the legislation in the Senate Finance Committee, lawmakers challenged the accuracy of the fiscal impact, and the Legislative Counsel Bureau concluded they couldn’t verify the accuracy of the amount. The bill then passed both houses unanimously. 

It’s unclear why the same level of scrutiny given to the fiscal note on SB 22 wasn’t given to SB 258.

Maylath said the bill “was about getting the Department of Corrections to properly write transgender and gender variant prisoner policy” so guidelines were consistent across prisons and clear for all corrections officers to understand.

“So for the 30, 40 prisoners they have who are gender variant, (NDOC) wants to continue to not have to change their ways so they can be able to do what they’ve always done, which is applying extrajudicial punishment for people who are different,” she said.

Bernabei wasn’t surprised that those bills didn’t pass, but was still disappointed. 

“Even though we have a progressive body right now and some really great lawmakers, we still couldn’t get through what we should have,” they added. “At least we didn’t pass anti-LGBTQ bills, but I feel like we still kind of failed in some areas.”

More voices, more political power

Wade said one of the more significant wins for the LGBTQ community was Senate Bill 275, which modernizes the state’s HIV laws. 

“It’s part of a broader movement across the nation with at least nine other states mulling similar legislation,” Wade said.

The legislation repeals a provision in Nevada law that makes it a category B felony for a person who tested positive for HIV from “knowingly or willfully engaging in a manner intended to transmit the disease.” 

Laws criminalizing HIV transmission that were put in place during the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic targeted gay and trans people and don’t reflect the innovations in science and medicine around the disease. Former state Sen. David Parks had worked for years to change those laws.

Again, Maylath said the passage was bittersweet.

“How do you criminalize having a virus?” Maylath said. “It was bad they criminalized it in the first place… Is it room for celebration? I don’t know. How do you celebrate being able to get what’s owed to you on a human dignity basis after having it taken away from you for the past 30 years?”

Wade said it’s hard to undersell the importance of Assembly Bill 261, which creates inclusive curriculum standards that takes into consideration the perspectives and contributions of marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ community, Black, indigenous people of color and immigrants. 

“It will allow racial and ethnic minorities and sexual and gender minorities to see themselves in history books and civic books and for our cisgender, heterosexual peers to see us as well,” Wade said.

Bernabei noted the important step of passing AB 261 especially in contrast to other states that banned “critical race theory” from being taught in schools. While the bill is a good step, they added the implementation process is something to watch. 

“What is it going to look like when it’s implemented,” they said. “When we talk about LGBTQ history, are we only going to be celebrating Harvey Milk (the first openly gay elected official in California)? Are we celebrating trans folks who have contributed or people of color in our community? I’m glad it passed, but I’m interested to see what happens with it.” 

Other important bills, Wade said, include Senate Bill 237, which designates LGBTQ businesses as minority-owned businesses, and Senate Bill 148, which enhances how Nevada law enforcement tracks and reports hate crimes.  

“Our hate crime reporting data, in general, isn’t that great,” Wade said. “But this will allow us to have better data on sexual orientation and gender identity so we can know what the rise of hate crimes look like throughout the state and get reports so we can know how to address the situation.”

Assembly Bill 115 would allow more than two individuals to be legal parents and allows for all consenting parents to share in the duties and responsibilities of raising the child.

“This isn’t just an LGBTQ bill, this is also a step-parent bill. This is a bill for families who need legal protections for modern families,” Wade said.

While there wasn’t a concerted effort to advance anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2021, Bernabei wouldn’t be surprised if the progress made during the session prompted backlash in 2023, especially if Democrats lose seats. 

But LGBTQ groups will be ready. 

“The good thing about where we’re at is there are more people coming out not because there are more gay and trans people but because it’s safer and more affirming,” Bernabei said. “With more voices, we have more political power.”

US: New Jersey Assemblywoman introduces legislation to modernise the state’s HIV-specific criminal law

Vainieri Huttle Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Transmission of HIV

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle has introduced legislation to decriminalize the transmission of HIV under certain circumstances.

Under current New Jersey law, it is a crime of the third degree if a person knows that he or she is infected with AIDS or HIV and commits an act of sexual penetration without the informed consent of their partner. A third-degree crime is punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

The legislation (A-5673) seeks to amend existing law to downgrade this penalty to a disorderly persons offense, and also have it only apply to people who act with specific intent to transmit an infectious or communicable disease like HIV, do not attempt to prevent transmission, and pass the disease to another person. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

“For far too long, stigma around HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ community has guided our laws. This legislation ensures that New Jersey moves forward guided by public health, not bigotry,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “I am honored to be working alongside Garden State Equality, Hyacinth and the Harm Reduction Coalition to put forth this historic legislation.”

“The current law disproportionately impacts communities who are more likely to be living with the virus, including LGBTQ+ people, Black and Latinx people, transgender women, and sex workers. We are thrilled to partner with pro-equality champions, Senator Vitale and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, on modernizing this outdated and harmful law,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director, Garden State Equality.

Axel Torress Marrero, Senior Director of Public Policy and Prevention, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation said, “New Jersey’s HIV criminalization statute is based on stigma and fear, rather than modern science. It no longer reflects the current science of treatment and transmission of HIV. In 2021, a person living with HIV today can take medication to reduce their viral load that corresponds to the amount of virus present in their body, which means they will not transmit HIV to another individual.  This tremendous breakthrough is the science supporting the Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U) reality.”

“This bill will make New Jersey more inclusive and less stigmatizing for people living with HIV. The criminal code is meant to punish actions that harm others, not discriminate against people living with a chronic health condition. We sincerely thank bill sponsors Senator Vitale and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle for championing this effort to decriminalize HIV and promote public health,” said Jenna Mellor, Executive Director, New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition.

In addition to HIV, the measure would also apply to the transmission of chancroid, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes virus, or any of the varieties or stages of such diseases. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further review.

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.

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».

[Update]US: New legislation decriminalising HIV non-disclosure takes effect this week in Virginia

Virginians No Longer Required to Disclose HIV+ Status to Sexual Partners

It is no longer a crime for Virginians to fail to disclose their HIV+ status before engaging in sexual activities with an unknowing partner, after legislation from the General Assembly’s spring session took effect Thursday.

The new law says that it is not a crime to unknowingly transmit the virus, for which there is no cure, unless the person transmitting intended to do so. Under the new law, an accuser must also prove that they contracted the virus.

“Those changes set a new legal bar for accusers that’s nearly impossible to scale,” The Bodyan HIV/AIDS resource website said. “The previous law only required proof of intent, putting the burden of proof on the partner living with HIV.”

One of the cosponsors of the legislation that changed the law celebrated on Twitter.

“The HIV Law Modernization bill is now law! This law, which I passed with [state Sen. Mamie Locke] reforms outdated and ineffective 1980s-era laws that criminalize HIV. These laws were ineffective from a public health perspective and stigmatize HIV-positive status,” state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-District 9) said. 

Virginia, whose General Assembly is controlled by Democrats and took a leftward turn during the spring session, is only the ninth state to implement relaxed HIV+ transmittal laws.

In many states, an accuser only has to prove possible exposure in order for criminal charges to be brought.

But activists are not satisfied with simply raising the bar for prosecution.

They were also hoping that the punishment for crime would be reduced from a felony, to a misdemeanor, and will likely keep fighting until that happens.

“That was one of our hard demands, but after careful consideration of how far we were able to push so many other great wins, we decided to accept it,” activist Dierdre Johnson told The Body.


Published on CBS News on 21/03/2021

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: 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.”