Knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection will no longer be a major crime in California starting January 1, 2018.
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday that lowers the act from a felony to a misdemeanor, and will also apply to people who donate blood without telling the blood bank that they’re HIV-positive.
People who knowingly exposed others to HIV were punished with up to eight years in prison under the current law, and the new bill will lower that jail time to a maximum of six months.
Advances in medicine, which have shown that it is nearly impossible for people living with HIV who undergo regular treatment to spread the infection to others, have caused bill authors Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Todd Gloria to fight against the “outdated” California law.
“The most effective way to reduce HIV infections is to destigmatize HIV,” Wiener said to CNN. “To make people comfortable talking about their infection, get tested, get into treatment.”
Wiener said that the current law was discriminatory because it did not require a risk of infection, which means people taking medication for the virus could still be charged with a felony.
The senator also argued that the law discouraged people from getting tested for HIV because they could not be charged with a felony for exposing someone to the infection if they were never tested in the first place.
In a statement, Wiener said, “We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care.”