HIV patients in California who expose others to disease will no longer face felony charges

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, on Friday signed a law that lowers the penalty for exposing partners to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor, which includes those who donate blood without informing the center about their HIV status.

“Today California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Sen. Scott Wiener, D.- San Francisco, told The Los Angeles Times.

Exposing a person to HIV was treated more seriously under California law than infecting someone with any other communicable disease, a policy some lawmakers said was a relic of the decades-old AIDS scare that unfairly punishes HIV-positive people based on outdated science.

Under the old law, if a person who knows they are infected with HIV has unprotected sex without telling their partner they have the virus, they can be convicted of a felony and face years of jail time. Intentional transmission of any other communicable disease, even a potentially deadly condition like hepatitis, is a misdemeanor.

“These laws were passed at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when there was enormous fear and ignorance and misinformation around HIV,” Wiener earlie said. “It’s time for California to lead and to repeal these laws to send a clear signal that we are going to take a science-based approach to HIV not a fear-based approach.”

Republican lawmaker, Sen Joel Anderson, reportedly voted against the bill.

“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Anderson said, according to the paper.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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