January 18, 2012
Another day, another HIV criminalization story.
According to The Daily Times, a Maryland state senator has proposed a new bill that would make "knowingly transferring or attempting to transfer HIV to another individual" a felony in his state, increasing its maximum prison term from three years to 25 years.
The Daily Times reported:
Senate Bill 60, proposed by Sen. Norman Stone Jr., D-6-Baltimore County, would elevate the penalty of knowingly transferring the virus from a misdemeanor to a felony, if approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.
The bill does not have any co-sponsors in the senate and has not been cross filed with any house legislation. It has gone through a first reading; however no hearing date has yet been scheduled.
TheBody.com spoke to Stone on Jan. 16 to talk about why and how this bill came about. He said, "Someone suggested it to us, and we thought it was a good idea." He added, "The risk of knowingly doing something like this ... it's not like giving someone a cold."
When pressed on who suggested that he create this bill, Stone was adamant that he didn't remember.
As reported above, there are no co-sponsors on Senate Bill 60 and it's unclear whether Stone will work on garnering support for the bill from his colleagues. He said, "Either they are for it or against it."
Obviously, this bill and its potential repercussions don't sit too well with many LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates.
Bill Browning, founder of the Bilerico Project, told the Washington Blade, "I would suggest that perhaps Senator Stone should be more concerned with advocating for more education about HIV/AIDS and social services for those already infected instead of trying to stigmatize people with HIV by treating them as de facto criminals."
Whether this bill has any legs is to be determined. It's also unclear what "knowingly transferring or attempting to transfer" HIV will include under the proposed law. Will this follow suit with other courts around the country that have found people living with HIV guilty for "attempting to transfer" HIV by spitting, even though transferring the virus this way is virtually impossible from a scientific standpoint? Does using a condom but not disclosing status fall under this law?
According to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, 34 states and two U.S. territories have HIV-specific criminal statutes, and 36 states have reported proceedings in which HIV-positive people have been arrested or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting or spitting. At least 80 such prosecutions have occurred in the last two years alone.
We will be monitoring this story closely and provide updates.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.
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