January 17, 2012 | by Phil Reese
Maryland Senator introduces bill to classify HIV transmission as felony

As LGBT groups focus on pending marriage legislation in Maryland, a Democratic Senator stands to potentially ignite a fight over HIV criminalization in that state.

Sen. Norman Stone Jr. has introduced a bill that would classify knowingly transmitting HIV from a misdemeanor to a felony, ThinkProgress has reported. The bill has no companion in the lower house, but at a time when HIV criminalization becomes a more divisive issue around the nation, LGBT advocates would likely rather avoid the distraction as they push for success on the marriage bill during Maryland’s short legislative session.

According to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, HIV disclosure laws are abused throughout the nation to criminalize behavior that does not pose a risk of transmitting HIV. In Iowa the law was used to jail an HIV positive man for 25 years, even though he had an undetectable viral load at the time and used a condom, and in Texas a man who spit on a police officer was jailed for 35 years. In both cases there was no transmission, and many HIV experts agree that transmission in these cases would have been either impossible or nearly impossible.

“I would suggest that perhaps Senator Stone should be more concerned with advocating for more education about HIV/AIDS and social services for those already infected instead of trying to stigmatize people with HIV by treating them as de facto criminals,” Bil Browning, founder of the Bilerico Project, told the Blade.

HIV/AIDS advocates have been seeking for some times to get states to rethink their HIV disclosure and transmission laws to better battle the stigma that such laws create for HIV+ citizens. Longtime HIV/AIDS activists Sean Strub released the following short film earlier this year to communicate that message.

36 U.S. states and territories have HIV-specific statutes, which are often used to criminalize behavior like spitting and biting 25% of the time.

 

6 Comments
  • Thanks for pointing out (and early on) that Stone is a democrat. But, I don’t understand your concluding sentence: “…36 U.S. states and territories have HIV-specific statutes, which are often used to criminalize behavior like spitting and biting 25% of the time…” So, in some of those states/territories, a positive person would violate statute if s/he spits or bites 25% of the time? That’s the way it literally reads to me…

  • Dear Senator Norman Stone jr; I find myself wondering whose back, in Tennessee, might you be scratching? There seems to be a discriminatory cycle starting to occur between Tennessee and Indianna that is targeting the LGBT community and now the HIV/AIDS community. How can any (of you) politicians in the Appalachian Region presume such absurdity will ever be merited with logic or a reasonable noesis? Personally I believe the entire proposal is, with great stride, an effort to further perpetuate the stigma that has been attached to the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the last 30 years. Senator Stone, the Appalchian Region is a product of the Paleozoic era, dating as far back as 544 million years; we sir are in the 21st century A.D. – I truly hope my flippant remark(s) have been taken into consideration because, Senator Stone jr., your proposal is flawed beyond belief.

  • Thank you,
    James Ozmun / homosexual / HIV+ / human being / Chattanooga,Tennessee

  • We as Marylanders should be focused on prevention and education and not criminalization. This is not right. I wish this Senator would understand that even putting this bill in front of the Maryland General Assembly is in itself ludicrous. Look at this bill, it’s very vague and if put into law it will clearly label all of us as criminals before we have done anything and even if we were planning on causing bodily harm or not. This is just so wrong, I personally feel that if this bill is passed arrest will go up and what is important like education and prevention or even harm reduction will go out the window. Also the real enemy is HIV, how do you expect people to disclose their status if they will be tried and convicted for it? How can you expect anyone to be able to tell someone they’re dating that they have HIV if they don’t want the police called on them? How do you expect people to be comfortable about being HIV positive themselves if they are branded as criminals? How do you expect stigma and shame to be overcome when self esteem will be hindered if this bill is passed? This bill could jail a HIV positive person for having protected sex with anyone. I can’t believe that this bill is even being proposed this is not where our energy needs to be.

    I have a video response to this ignorant bill
    [URL removed]

    Mr. Justin B. Terry-Smith
    Author of children’s HIV book “I Have A Secret”
    Creator of Justin’s HIV Journal
    [URL removed]

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