Rep. Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Fight Discrimination Against People Living with HIV

 On Sept. 23 Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation to address the serious problem of discrimination in state criminal and civil laws against those who test positive for HIV.  The bill creates incentives and support for states to reform existing policies that use legal authority to target people living with HIV for felony charges and severe punishments for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission.

“Laws that place an additional burden on HIV-positive individuals because of their HIV status lag far behind the medical advances and scientific discoveries in the fight against the epidemic,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “Instead of progress against the disease and protection for people living with HIV/AIDS, criminalization laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred.”
“Although our country has made notable advances in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, we have a long way to go,” continued Lee.  “The decriminalization of HIV/AIDS is one way we can reduce stigma in our communities, while fighting the epidemic in a rational, holistic, and truly rights-based fashion.”
The laws targeted by the legislation are those that are inconsistent with evidence-based initiatives and are at direct odds with U.S. public health goals and HIV prevention strategies and programs.  The bill requires federal and state officials to review federal and state laws and policies that involve criminal cases against people living with HIV/AIDS, and to provide support for education and reform initiatives. 

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Source: Congresswoman Barbara Lee – September 23, 2011