Advocates for Youth Welcomes Legislation to Decriminalize Living with HIV

New federal HIV modernization bill would help reduce stigma and eliminate systemic discrimination experienced by young people living with HIV 

WASHINGTON, DC – This week Members of Congress introduced a bill to decrease HIV stigma and discrimination.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) introduced the REPEAL (”Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal”) HIV Discrimination Act, which calls for a review of all federal and state laws, policies, and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses. It is the first piece of federal legislation to take on the issue of HIV criminalization and provides incentives for states to reconsider laws and practices that target people living with HIV for having consensual sex and conduct that poses no real risk of HIV transmission. Currently, 37 states have laws that criminalize HIV exposure.

The REPEAL Act calls for a joint-report, between the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense, which will outline a set of best practices, and accompanying guidance, for states to address the treatment of HIV in criminal and civil commitment cases.

In the United States (US), more than 50% of those accused in reported HIV criminalization cases in 2020 were people of color, a larger proportion than people of color estimated to be living with HIV in the US. Advocates for Youth calls for an end to HIV criminalization for the sake of young people’s sexual health and rights. We also nod the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s call for “the reforming, rescinding, and revising the application of [HIV criminalization] laws for the sake of people with HIV and for the public’s health.”

“The criminal statutes based on perceived exposure to HIV are based on long-outdated beliefs about the routes and risk of HIV transmission. For too long, the blood, semen, and saliva of people living with HIV have been referred to as ‘deadly weapons’ and individuals have been charged under aggravated assault, attempted murder, and even bioterrorism laws. The REPEAL act will go a long way to making it clear that these HIV criminalization statutes are unacceptable,” said Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth.