Congresswoman Lee Celebrates Signing of California’s HIV Decriminalization Law

Oakland, CA – Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 239, reforming outdated and anti-science HIV criminalization laws. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is the sponsor of federal legislation, H.R. 1739, the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, applauded California’s progress on this issue. With Governor Brown's signature, California becomes the third state to modernize HIV transmission laws. More than 30 U.S. states still have criminalization laws on the books.

“I am pleased that our efforts to modernize discriminatory HIV criminalization laws in California have succeeded, bringing long-overdue change to these punitive and counterproductive laws. HIV criminalization laws are based on bias, not science, and they perpetuate stigma and prejudice,” said Congresswoman Lee. “California has shown itself to be a leader once again, and I hope other states will follow our lead and get these harmful statutes off the books.”

Congresswoman Lee’s bipartisan legislation would provide a clear plan to help states modernize their HIV transmission laws, reflecting the major medical advances of the last few years. It also expresses the sense of Congress that federal and state laws, policies, and regulations should not place a unique or additional burden on individuals solely as a result of their HIV status. Congresswoman Lee also served on the United Nations Commission on HIV and the Law, which researched political and legal obstacles around the world in confronting and addressing the HIV crisis.

“As the only U.S. Representative on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, it saddened me that my country and state harbored unjust and discriminatory HIV criminalization laws, despite their damaging impact on both human rights and public health,” Congresswoman Lee continued. “While I am proud of California’s action to get these laws off the books, more must be done in Congress and across the states to ensure everyone living with HIV is treated with dignity and respect.”

California Senator Scott Weiner (SD-11) said, “Governor Brown's signing of SB 239 is a major step forward for California in the fight against HIV and for criminal justice reform. These laws unfairly punish and stigmatize people living with HIV. They serve no legitimate purpose. I want to thank Congresswoman Lee for her many years of work to decriminalize HIV in California and nationally, as well as for her staunch support for all people living with HIV."