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 Body, an 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 Mamie Locke] reforms outdated and ineffective 1980s-era laws that criminalize HIV.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.
The HIV Law Modernization bill is now law! This law, which I passed with @SenatorLocke, reforms outdated and ineffective 1980s-era laws that criminalize HIV. These laws were ineffective from a public health perspective and stigmatize HIV-positive status. https://t.co/0ubMTMb7ZJ
— Jennifer McClellan (@JennMcClellanVA) July 2, 2021
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.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.