The Iowa Senate has voted to lessen and even erase some of the current penalties for those found guilty of transmitting HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says the law was written at a time when the disease and its causes were poorly understood.
“Modern medicine has changed,” Hogg says. “Our understanding of HIV has improved and our law needed to be updated to reflect those changes.”
Hogg says under current law, anyone engaging in activity with any potential to transmit the virus can be found guilty of a Class B felony and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“Regardless of whether the person intended to transmit the disease, regardless of whether the disease is transmitted, regardless of what the person has done to control the transmission of the disease,” Hogg said. “That is a badly outdated and draconian law.”
If this bill becomes law, someone with AIDS who is under the care of a doctor and following prevention guidelines could be shielded from prosecution. The bill also lessens penalties if a person infected with the virus did not intend to transmit the disease. The bill passed on a 48-0 vote with the support of all the Democrats and Republicans present. Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, spoke in favor of the legislation.
“Unfortunately today we have a law that is not always proportionate to the crime that is committed,” Schneider said.
The legislation also expands these new prosecution guidelines to other transmittable diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and meningitis. Schneider says that will hopefully encourage more people to get tested and treated for contagious diseases.