Fair Laws, Not Fear Laws
- It’s time to bring California’s laws in line with current science.
- These laws are outdated and contribute to HIV stigma and discrimination.
- We should treat HIV the same as all other serious communicable diseases.
Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR) is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in California. Our mission is to mobilize a broad coalition, including individuals and communities who are disproportionately impacted by HIV, to replace fear-based, stigmatizing laws that criminalize HIV-status with evidence-based, nondiscriminatory laws that protect public health. CHCR is led by a steering committee including—
- ACLU of California
- AIDS Project Los Angeles Health
- Black AIDS Institute
- Erotic Service Provider Legal Educational and Research Project
- Equality California
- Health Officers Association
- Lambda Legal
- Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project
- Los Angeles LGBT Center
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- Positive Women’s Network
- Sex Workers Outreach Project
- Transgender Law Center
Over the past 25 years, laws were passed in California that criminalized otherwise legal behaviors or added penalties to existing crimes for people living with HIV. These laws were largely based on irrational fears about people with HIV, our limited understanding of the routes and risks of HIV transmission, a limited number of effective prevention options, and the perception of that time of HIV as an incurable and inevitably fatal disease. In the years since, medical science has greatly improved our understanding of the routes and risks of transmission, there are increasingly more effective biomedical methods of preventing acquisition of HIV, and effective treatments have dramatically lengthened and improved the quality of life for people living with HIV. We need to modernize these laws to take into account current scientific knowledge about HIV.
Why are laws that criminalize people living with HIV a problem in California?
- 800 Californians have come into contact with the criminal justice system under these laws.
- 90% of individuals who are charged under these laws are sentenced to custody/confinement.
- Every incident in which one or more HIV-specific charges were brought resulted in a conviction (385 out of 385 incidents) for at least one of the HIV-specific charges.
- HIV criminalization impacts communities most affected by HIV, including the gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
- These laws have a particularly harsh impact on sex workers and women living with HIV.
- The individuals who are criminalized multiple times tend to be black men and black women.
- Black men have been found to be more likely to be charged under these laws multiple times more than white men.
- These laws create a disincentive for individuals to seek HIV testing and treatment.
- By singling out one specific disease for criminal sanction, these laws portray people living with HIV as sexual predators and contribute to HIV-related stigma.
The efforts of the coalition are based on specific principles to modernize these laws and eliminate these problems. We believe a model law must include:
- Criminal intent to infect.
- Conduct likely to transmit.
- No new crimes or increased penalties for any other disease.
- Punishment proportionate to the actual harm.
- Classification as a misdemeanor, not a felony.
The CHCR webpages are supported through the generous contribution and support from the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.