After much debate this year about whether stealthing should be considered a sex crime, lawmakers in California have decided to make changes to the penalties that those who knowingly expose others to HIV would face, the Washington Post reported.
The state has passed new legislation that would reduce the repercussions for people who intentionally transmit the virus, the news outlet writes. Under the new bill—dubbed SB 239—the charge will drop from a felony to a misdemeanor. Individuals who donate blood infected with the virus would not face any criminal charges. SB 239 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this month and is slated to be enacted in 2018.
The law reverses legislation that was put into effect during the 1980s when the epidemic was rapidly growing in the U.S. and there were misconceptions about how it was transmitted. Several HIV advocacy groups fought to have the laws changed, claiming that those who were primarily held criminally responsible for transmitting the virus were sex workers who are typically tested after being convicted of other crimes, reports the source. According to UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, 90 percent of the felonies that stemmed from the law were related to sex workers between 1988 and 2014. The study further illustrated racial and gender disparities amongst people who were convicted of this crime.
This health issue has caused a deeper partisan divide in the state of California, with many Democrats who are supportive of the reform who think that tougher laws against HIV transmission doesn’t influence people’s behaviors and Republicans who believe people who knowingly transmit the disease should be held accountable.
“These laws are so draconian that you can be convicted of a felony and sent to state prison even if you engage in behavior that creates zero risk of HIV infection,” California state Sen. Scott Wiener told the Washington Post.
The transmission—and potential transmission—of sexually transmitted has been a hot-button topic in California this year. According to the Los Angeles Times in July, state lawmakers pushed a bill forward classifying stealthing—condom removal that isn’t consensual—as a form of rape.