Just yesterday, the Iowa legislature unanimously passed Senate File 2297, which repeals the state’s old and outdated HIV criminalization law and replaces it with one based less on inaccurate information, stigma, and fear and more on current and accurate medical understanding of HIV transmission.
The new legislation allows for tiered-sentencing system, so a person might be charged with any of a range of felonies and misdemeanors depending on intent, exposure, and transmission of the disease. Those convicted of the law will no longer be required to register as sex offenders – for those who had been convicted under the old law and had already registered, their records will be expunged.
This is a huge victory for those in favor of modernizing the multitude of anachronistic HIV criminalization laws to reflect current scientific understanding of HIV transmission and to end the stigma associated with HIV. In 2011, 36 states had laws that criminalized HIV exposure on their books – the majority of these laws do not require that the person intend to transmit HIV, and many don’t require actual transmission, but rather require that a person know their status and that the “victim” is exposed to HIV. These laws reinforce discrimination and stigma against people living with HIV – criminalizing exposure even when there is no intent and virtually no likelihood of HIV transmission. We commend the Iowa legislature for taking action to update their laws, and we hope that this inspires other states to take similar action to repeal or revise outdated and discriminatory HIV criminalization laws.
The Iowa bill will now be sent to the Governor for his signature. To find out more about HIV criminalization laws visit The Center for HIV Law & Policy.