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HIV decriminalization bill filed in Illinois General Assembly

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A bill to end penalties on people with HIV was filed in the Illinois General Assembly on Thursday.

The Illinois HIV Action Alliance said that current state law makes legal behavior like consensual sex illegal, and adds harsh penalties for ordinarily minor crimes such as sharing injection-drug equipment, even if they do not transmit HIV to another person. They may also face longer sentences because of their HIV status.

Senate Bill 655 would amend the Criminal Code of 2012, repeal the statute creating the offense of criminal transmission of HIV, and make conforming changes in the AIDS Confidentiality Act, the Illinois Sexually Transmissible Disease Control Act, the Illinois Vehicle Code, the Criminal Code of 2012, and the Unified Code of Corrections. 

“The truth is HIV criminalization does not improve safety or public health in Illinois – instead, it often has the opposite effect. Not a single study throughout the country shows HIV criminalization has reduced HIV transmission in any jurisdiction where it exists. We have also seen through the decades how HIV criminalization laws disproportionately impact women and the Black community. It is time to repeal this destructive law,” said State Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), Senate legislative co-sponsor. 

“The Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA) recognizes that these outdated, dangerous and discriminatory laws disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other persons of color. To ensure an equitable state for Black and Brown individuals and to promote science-based and proven HIV public health strategies of testing, prevention and engagement in care, it’s essential lawmakers repeal Illinois’ HIV criminalization law. Illinois’ HIV criminalization law is rooted in fear and racial biases, and we certainly know that criminalization increases stigma and harms in marginalized communities,” said Chris Wade, Illinois Public Health Association, in a statement.

Organizations that have joined the Illinois HIV Action Alliance coalition and have signed on to support SB 655 include: ACLU of Illinois, African-American Lesbian Professionals Having A Say (A.L.P.H.A.S.), AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), Angii’s Angels, Brothers Health Collective, CALOR, Central Illinois Friends, Chicago House and Social Services, Chicago Recovery Alliance, Community Renewal Society (CRS), Equality Illinois, Howard Brown Health, Illinois Public Health Association, Lambda Legal, Legal Council for Health Justice, Peoria Proud, Prairie Pride Coalition, Pride Action Tank (a project of AFC), QC PRIDE, INC., Rush University System for Health, Sinai Infectious Disease Center, Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP), The Sero Project, Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), Transformative Justice Law Project, and Women’s Connection (a project of AFC).

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