September 6, 2022

Advocates say reforming HIV laws will help destigmatize disease, improve public health

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There are several Indiana criminal laws that make penalties harsher if the offender knows they have HIV. Experts say those laws worsen public health. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

There are several Indiana criminal laws that make penalties harsher if the offender knows they have HIV. Experts say those laws worsen public health.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Advocates are again pushing Indiana legislators to reform the state’s laws concerning HIV.

Experts say the laws worsen, not help, public health.

There are several Indiana criminal laws that make penalties harsher if the offender knows they have HIV. An example: Indiana University sociologist Carrie Foote – who lives with HIV – said that if a person without the disease spits on someone else in Indiana, it’s a misdemeanor.

“But if I spit on you, it’s a felony crime – I face a very serious crime,” Foote said.

That’s despite the fact that it’s impossible to transmit HIV via spitting on someone.


 

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IU clinical medicine professor Dr. Bree Weaver said the laws further stigmatize the disease.

“Keeping many people from even getting tested and also from engaging in care or taking their HIV medicines regularly,” Weaver said.

Weaver said because many of Indiana’s laws only increase penalties when someone knows they have HIV, people won’t get tested just to avoid legal issues.

Indiana laws related to the transmission of HIV were written in the '90s. A bill was proposed in 2019 to modernize them, but failed.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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