02.25.21

Lee, González Colon Reintroduce Bipartisan Resolution to Modernize Laws and Policies to Eliminate HIV/AIDS Discrimination

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Jenniffer González Colon (PR-At Large), Co-Chairs of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, reintroduced a bipartisan resolution to modernize laws and policies, and eliminate discrimination, with respect to people living with HIV/AIDS. 

Thirty-two states and two U.S. territories have criminal statutes or general criminal laws based on perceived exposure to HIV. Punishments under these laws or statutes include decades-long sentences and sex offender registration, even for behaviors and situations that pose no HIV transmission risk. These dangerous and stigmatizing laws undermine public health and can contribute to worsening the HIV epidemic – and are one of the primary reasons why people living with HIV do not seek medical care. 

The REPEAL Act works to eliminate the harmful consequences of dangerous and stigmatizing laws by creating incentives and support for states to reform existing policies that use criminal law to target people living with HIV for severe punishments and felony charges for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission.  

“Nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States today,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Yet, our laws and policies continue to criminalize HIV/AIDS and discourage testing for those most at risk by legitimizing stigma and discrimination. It is past time that we repeal these harmful and discriminatory laws and instead focus our efforts on promoting public health equity and public awareness. We cannot achieve our shared goal of an AIDS-free generation while these laws are on the books. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Rep. Jenniffer González Colón.”  

"Over the past year, Puerto Rico had reported 11,272 cases of HIV; an average of 2 new cases daily. As lawmakers, we not only have to create awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS but we also have an opportunity to advance legislation and allocate resources that will help individuals lead better lives. The REPEAL Act eliminates outdated and harmful consequences of dangerous and stigmatizing state laws that criminalize people living with HIV. I want to thank my colleague and co-chair Barbara Lee for leading this effort,” said Congresswoman González Colón. 

The bill directs the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Defense (DOD) to initiate a national review of federal (including military) and state laws, policies, regulations, and judicial precedents and decisions regarding criminal and related civil commitment cases involving people living with HIV. DOJ and HHS must (1) develop and publicly release guidance and best practice recommendations for states, and (2) establish an integrated monitoring and evaluation system to measure state progress. 

For the full text of the bill, click here. 

Endorsements: The AIDS Institute, NASTAD, AIDS United, NMAC, AVAC, HIV Medicine Association, Human Rights Campaign, HealthHIV, Black AIDS Institute, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Global Black Gay Men Connect, Presbyterian HIV Network (PHIVN) PHEWA, Presbyterian Church (USA), Transgender Law Center