Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform

UPDATE: In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 239 into law, transforming the legal landscape with respect to HIV criminalization in California. Click here for a Q&A on the new changes to the law.

Under the new law, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), criminal penalties based on a person’s HIV status cannot be imposed unless the person acts with the intent to harm another person. Read our Q&A to understand the changes to the law, how these changes will improve public health, and the steps those previously convicted under these laws may be able to take to clear up their criminal record.

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  • These laws are outdated and contribute to HIV stigma and discrimination.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
  • APLA 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.

The pill that prevents HIV.

There are about 1.2 million Americans living with HIV and an estimated 50,000 new cases of HIV transmission each year. Sadly, most of these cases are among gay and bisexual men of color. That’s why now, more than ever, we need to increase awareness and uptake for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a new, highly effective tool to prevent the transmission of HIV.

PrEP involves an HIV-negative person taking the antiretroviral medication Truvada preventatively, once per day, to provide a high-level of protection against HIV. When used correctly, studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by up to 99%. The medication Truvada is currently the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PrEP.

If you decide that PrEP is right for you, you will need to talk to your primary care physician. Your doctor is the only person that can safely monitor you while you are on PrEP. PrEP is for HIV negative patients only, and routine HIV screening and blood work is required to remain on the medication. The determine if you can get PrEP for free or low cost, check out NASTAD’s PrEP cost calculator, here: PrEPcost.org.

How does PrEP work?

Truvada works by preventing HIV from establishing in the body. If you are exposed to semen, vaginal fluids or blood from an HIV-positive person, then Truvada acts as a protective measure to halt transmission. For optimal protection, the pill should be taken daily.

The CDC has determined that 1 in 4 gay and bisexual men should be on PrEP. Who else should be on PrEP?

  • If you are HIV-negative and have anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
  • If you have sex with an HIV-positive person or someone whose HIV status you’re unsure of.
  • If your primary sex partner is HIV-positive.
  • If you engage in sex with multiple partners.
  • If you or your sex partner(s) exchange sex for money, housing, or other needs.
  • If you or your sex partner(s) engage in injectable drug use.
  • If you occasionally, rarely, or never use condoms.
  • If in the past year you have taken post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection, had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or used recreational drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, stimulants, or GHB.
  • Are you trying to safely have a child with an HIV-positive partner?

Does PrEP have side effects?

  • The majority of PrEP users report zero side effects. However, some people experience nausea, dizziness, and weightloss, with these minor side effects usually resolving within the first few weeks of starting PrEP.
  • A very small number of individuals experience modest declines in kidney function1 or bone mineral density2, both of which returned to normal once PrEP was discontinued. Your provider will do tests while you are taking PrEP to determine if you are experiencing any of these problems.
  • Importantly, a new study has shown PrEP to be as safe as aspirin.

Talking to your doctor:

  • Patients interested in PrEP should also check out LA County Department of Public Health’s Patient PrEP Self-Assessment Card to see if PreP is right for you!
  • Any doctor can prescribe PrEP. It’s important that you have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual behavior.
  • Be honest. If you rarely or never use condoms, then tell your doctor. Inconsistent condom-use is a great reason to be on PrEP, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to tell that to your doctor. Remember, while PrEP helps prevent HIV, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI). Condoms remain the most effective tool to protect against all STIs.
  • You might need to educate your doctor about the availability and effectiveness of PrEP. The CDC has created a PrEP Healthcare Provider Guidelines document which provides comprehensive information for the use of daily oral antiretroviral PrEP to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection in adults. You should also bring this PrEP Service Delivery Checklist, created by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, to ensure your healthcare provider obtains the information necessary to prescribe you PrEP and conducts appropriate follow-up appointments. Additional information on PrEP can be found here.
  • Most hospitals and clinics will have a physician that specializes in HIV. Your doctor might want to talk to them before prescribing you PrEP. This is completely okay! This just means that your doctor might have additional questions on PrEP and is going through the appropriate channels to get you the medicine that you need.
  • If your doctor refuses to prescribe your PrEP, questions your motives, or makes you feel uncomfortable for requesting it, then try to find another doctor. It is important to find a doctor that supports and respects any available preventative tools to enhance your sexual health.

All PrEP educational content and information on this website has been compiled from information consistent with current CDC guidelines for use of PrEPRisk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) guidelines, and clinical trials of oral daily PrEP.

The information provided on this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health, including HIV prevention.

Supported by grant funding from Gilead Sciences, Inc. Gilead Sciences, Inc. has had no input into the development or content of these materials.