Lee Backs Law to Repeal Discriminatory HIV/AIDS Policies

Barbara Lee

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) this week introduced H.R. 1843, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act. The REPEAL Act 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. “These laws are based on bias, not science. We need to make sure that our federal and state laws don’t discriminate against people who are living with HIV. These laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred, and we’ve got to modernize them. That’s exactly what this legislation would do,” said Lee. Thirty-two states and two U.S. territories have criminal statutes based on outdated information regarding HIV/AIDS. This bipartisan legislation would allow federal and state officials and community stakeholders to work together to review the efficacy of laws that target people living with HIV/AIDS. The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act would authorize the Attorney General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Defense to monitor new and existing laws imposing criminal liability against people with HIV/AIDS and to establish a set of best practices for legislatures to consider when proposing such legislation. “I’m pleased to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill that will help end the serious problem of discrimination in criminal and civil cases against those who are HIV positive. Singling out and discriminating against those living with HIV is not in line with our American values and we must do better. The legislation seeks to modernize our current outdated laws and bring them into the 21st century. I urge my Republican and Democrat colleagues to join Barbara and me in helping those persons living with HIV live as healthy and normal a life as possible,” Ros-Lehtinen said. If passed, the act will be a key step towards ending unfair and unjust HIV criminalization laws in the United States by developing a set of best practices for the treatment of HIV in criminal and civil commitment cases, issuing guidance to states based on those best practices, and monitoring how states change policies consistent with that guidance.
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