California Columnist: Stop Punishing People Who ‘Willfully Expose Others’ to HIV or AIDS

An associate editor of the largest newspaper in Sacramento, California has published a bizarre article asking why is it still illegal to “willfully expose others” to AIDS.

Erika D. Smith, the associate editor of The Sacramento Bee daily newspaper, wrote “The AIDS crisis is over. Why are people still going to jail over HIV?

Smith revisits the AIDS epidemic that plagued the country back in the 1980s and the case of Ryan White, a boy from the Midwest who contracted HIV via a blood transfusion for hemophilia and was later diagnosed with AIDS.

Former President Ronald Reagan once paid tribute to White in The Washington Post.

Smith then goes on to say: “Over time, that vague fear of AIDS that I once had has been replaced with an understanding that HIV is a chronic illness that can be easily managed with medication.

It’s no longer a death sentence.

“What’s more, it’s highly unlikely that someone with an undetectable level of HIV in his or her blood, which is pretty common these days for undergoing treatment, will transmit the virus to anyone else.”

The associate editor then concludes that since having AIDS no longer necessarily leads to death, laws prohibiting people from “willfully” exposing others to the virus are wrong.

Smith wrote:

But in California and more than 30 other states, dozens of laws remain on the books to punish people who willfully expose others to the virus.

To this day, people still get charged with felonies over HIV and go to prison for five, 10 or even 20 years. In some states, those convicted must register as a sex offender for life.

She goes on to claim that such laws aren’t treating people with HIV or AIDS fairly:

These laws aren’t “compassionate,” “caring” or “tolerant” toward people with HIV or AIDS.

They’re fear-based holdovers from the days of the “gay plague,” which in many ways, the Reagan administration callously let happen by ignoring the disease and its victims for far too long.

Back in the 1980s, Reagan wasn’t “compassionate,” “caring” or “tolerant.”