Virginia Senate Committee Approves Bill That Would Remove Intent Clause From Criminal HIV Exposure Law
The Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Monday approved 12-1 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 AP/Newport News Daily Press reports. The state House previously passed the bill unanimously (Bergman, AP/Newport News Daily Press, 3/1). 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/26). Those convicted could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. "I don't see where it's any different from carrying around a loaded weapon if somebody doesn't know you have it on you," Byron said. However, Steven Benjamin, special counsel to the state Senate committee, said that the bill could discourage people from being tested for HIV, the AP/Daily Press reports. He added, "If [someone] knows that if he acquires the knowledge his activity is a crime, it could discourage him from going out and attaining the knowledge." The bill now goes to the state Senate Finance Committee for consideration (AP/Newport News Daily Press, 3/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.