California's governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed a law that would lower penalty for exposing partners to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor, which would include those who donate blood without informing about their HIV status.
''Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,'' senator Scott Wiener, Democrat- San Francisco, told The Los Angeles Times.
Under California law exposing a person to HIV was treated more seriously than infecting someone with any other communicable disease, a policy that stemmed from the old AIDS scare.
Infecting one's partner through unprotected sex without telling them of the virus infection could result in felony and years of jail time under the old law. However, transmission of any other communicable disease with intent, even a potentially deadly condition like hepatitis, is a misdemeanor.
''These laws were passed at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when there was enormous fear and ignorance and misinformation around HIV,'' Wiener earlier said, Fox News reported. ''It's time for California to lead and to repeal these laws to send a clear signal that we are going to take a science-based approach to HIV not a fear-based approach.''
CNN reported that the new legislation will lower that punishment to a maximum of six months behind bars.
"If you are a sex worker and you solicit someone and you're HIV positive, you're guilty of a felony before any contact occurs," said Wiener. "These laws are so draconian that you can be convicted of a felony and sent to state prison even if you engage in behaviour that creates zero risk of HIV infection."
Opposing the bill, Republican lawmaker senator Joel Anderson said during the debate,
"I'm of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony."
"It's absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this," The LA Times reported.