Va. General Assembly Considers Measure That Would Remove Intent Clause From Criminal HIV Exposure Law
The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill (HB 871) that would make it easier for people to bring charges of criminal HIV exposure or transmission against an HIV-positive person who does not inform a sexual partner of his or her HIV status, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The state House has passed the bill, which is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate Courts of Justice committee. The current Virginia law, which was passed in 2000, requires prosecutors to prove that an HIV-positive person was intentionally trying to transmit the virus for the act to constitute criminal activity. The new bill, sponsored by state Del. Kathy Byron (R), would delete the intent requirement from the law. Violators of the measure could be charged with a Class 6 felony. "Intent is very difficult to prove," Byron said, adding, "I believe we need to go further in the law and make sure that an individual carrying (HIV) has the responsibility to let folks know he can infect." However, attorney Christopher Amolsch, who in 2002 defended an HIV-positive man who was charged with intentionally infecting his wife, said that even with the change, such cases would be difficult to prosecute, according to the Times-Dispatch. "It comes down to a 'he said, she said'" situation, one person's word against another person's," Amolsch said. Although Byron said that the bill is a public health and safety measure meant to prevent new HIV cases, some AIDS advocates said that the legislation could discourage people from being tested for HIV, the Times-Dispatch reports (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.