Los Angeles Times Looks at Debate Over Law Criminalizing Knowing HIV Transmission
The Los Angeles Times yesterday considered the debate surrounding a provision in a five-year-old law (SB 705) that criminalizes knowing exposure of a sexual partner to HIV that some California prosecutors say makes it difficult to secure convictions (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 9/10). The law makes it a felony -- punishable by up to eight years in prison -- to knowingly expose or infect an unaware person to HIV. The law also allows a person's HIV status to be disclosed if the person is the subject of a criminal investigation for committing this crime (California Healthline, 10/1/98). It is a crime in 24 other states for individuals who know they are HIV-positive to engage in unprotected sex without informing their partners of their status, but California's law requires prosecutors to prove that defendants acted "with the specific intent" to transmit HIV to their partner or partners. The specific-intent clause has caused an ongoing debate between HIV advocates, who say that the law's language protects HIV-positive people from unfounded accusations, and law enforcement officials, who say that the measure limits their ability to prosecute such cases. Since the law was enacted in 1998, only one person has been convicted under the measure (Los Angeles Times, 9/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.