Bill Now Heads to Gov. Northam’s Desk; Will Repeal Outdated Laws That Criminalize and Stigmatize HIV
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the General Assembly passed Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and Senator Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bill (SB 1138) to modernize outdated and ineffective 1980s-era laws that criminalize Virginians living with HIV. The bill now heads to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.
Virginia’s current law subjects people living with HIV to criminal prosecution and punishment by criminalizing potential exposure, non-disclosure or potential transmission of HIV. These laws have been proven ineffective for public health and disproportionately impact communities of color.
The Locke-McClellan bill will ensure that Virginia’s laws reflect the current scientific understanding of HIV and promote public health by alleviating the stigma around HIV.
“This bill will take Virginia a huge step forward in reforming outdated and discriminatory laws that targeted HIV status,” said. Sen. Locke. “Too many Virginians have been criminalized under laws based on an outdated understanding of HIV. I’m proud to see the Commonwealth promote public health rather than punishment and thank my colleagues for helping to build a more equitable criminal justice system.”
“Today, the General Assembly took action to remove decades-old laws that criminalize and stigmatize Virginians living with HIV,” said Sen. McClellan. “By repealing these outdated laws, this bill will promote public health and stop the criminalization of Virginians living with HIV. Thank you to Senator Locke, Equality Virginia, ECHO VA Coalition, Positive Women’s Network-USA, the Sero Project, and all of the advocates who have fought to create a more equitable justice system for all Virginians.”
“ECHO VA Coalition is excited for this historic milestone for the Commonwealth. We are looking forward to continuing our work on the necessary next steps of SB 1138 and we are appreciative of Senator McClellan and Senator Locke for steering a strong effort across both chambers while centering the lives of people living with HIV in Virginia,” said Deirdre Johnson and Cedric Pulliam ECHO VA Coalition Co-Founders.
“We’re grateful for the leadership of Senator McClellan and Senator Locke and for the opportunity to have more critical conversations about modernizing laws that impact Virginians living with HIV,” said Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia Executive Director. “While we still have a lot of work to do to reduce stigma and to improve access to HIV testing and care, especially for Black and brown transgender women, we’re proud of the progress we have made this year. This legislation is an important step towards improving public health outcomes and creating a more equitable criminal justice system in our state.”