REPEAL Act Fights HIV/AIDS Discrimination

US Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act into the US House of Representatives on September 23, 2011. The act, officially H.R. 3053, calls for a review of all State and National laws and regulations that criminalize people who have HIV/AIDS.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Many criminal laws regarding HIV/AIDS were enacted decades ago, when scientists still knew little about the virus and panic was high. So while science has proven that HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, in Texas spitting on someone can be ‘assault with a deadly weapon’ if a person is HIV positive. Many laws assume that any contact with bodily fluids is a deliberate attempt to infect another person, even if protections such as condemns are used to prevent the spread of HIV.

Not only are these laws unfairly criminalizing people with HIV/AIDS, but they also support and create an atmosphere of fear and marginalization. Laws treating saliva as a deadly weapon propagate the myth that even casual contact with someone who has HIV/AIDS can lead to infection. These myths increase prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS.

Representative Lee’s proposed legislation is a first step to correcting these discriminatory and unscientific laws. The REPEAL Act would initiate a review of all laws that criminalize people with HIV/AIDS, and provides incentives for states to look into ways to repeal or reform these laws.

Dozens of organizations, including ACLU, Center HIV Law and Policy, National Minority AIDS Council, Project Inform, Search for a Cure, and The National Association of People with AIDS have all endorsed the bill.

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