California lawmakers recently shared a bill that will ratify the current charge of HIV-positive people who knowingly have unprotected sex from a felony to a misdemeanor. State Senator Scott Wiener described his motivations behind the proposed change as reducing stigma against those infected with HIV. Just like how people with infectious diseases are not allowed on airplanes, HIV should not be knowingly spread.
Although removing the stigma of HIV is important, the act of purposefully endangering sexual partners to a currently incurable and financially debilitating disease is a serious action that deserves serious consequences. The spread of HIV has led to the death and financial ruin of millions of people since the disease was first diagnosed in humans.
Thankfully, the number of people who have died from HIV-related illnesses almost been cut in half since 2005. However, the average medical regimen cost is $2,000 to $5,000 a month. The financial burden of the disease is massive and the potential to die from HIV-related causes is constant, despite the medical advancements that allow positive status individuals to lead relatively healthy lives.
There have been dozens of cases over the past few decades of people purposefully trying to infect as many sexual partners as possible. Knowingly making someone vulnerable to any disease, not just HIV, is a terrible action that can spread the disease to even more populations.
Young adults have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections; therefore, it is no surprise college campuses see the spread of these infections quite often. Depending on the college and its resources, the numbers and percentages increase and decrease. However, only half of sexually active college students are regularly using protection.
There has also been an unfortunate rise in the prevalence of STIs among young adults within the last two years. The life-long implications of some STIs are a reality for many college students. California’s updated law may end up spreading to other states, and this is a problem.
Honest communication between partners is a key factor of consensual sex. When one partner does not disclose their medical status and has unprotected sex, they can potentially infect their partner. This action should not just be punished with a slap on the wrist when someone’s life may become financially drained or even end.
Instead of lessening the punishment for such a crime, the best way to combat the ignorance and stigma surrounding HIV is through education. Teaching the general public the history of HIV and the medical facts behind its transfer will do more than simply let off individuals who purposefully, or just uncaringly, infect and harm others.
Another of Wiener’s proposed bills, requiring insurance companies to pay for long-term HIV survivors, is also an important step in eventually creating a system where HIV survivors of all ages can treat their illness without going into severe debt.
The act of making anyone vulnerable to contracting a disease deserves severe reproductions. This can include infected blood bank donations, anti-vaccine parents who put other people’s children at risk and also anyone who knows which STI’s they have and still have unprotected sex anyway.