Lambda Legal is working to repeal or reform HIV criminalization laws throughout the United States. An HIV criminalization law is one that specifically targets and punishes people living with HIV for engaging in conduct that would otherwise be legal if not for the person’s HIV status. Most of these laws do not require transmission of HIV and are based on the mere failure to announce one’s medical condition to a potential partner prior to engaging in sexual contact. Below we describe 15 ways these laws harm public health, result in unjust prosecutions, and serve primarily to stigmatize and oppress people living with HIV.
The REPEAL ("Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal") HIV Discrimination Act, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, addresses the serious problem of discrimination in the use of criminal and civil commitment laws against those who test positive for HIV.
Since the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, stigma has been a major obstacle to accessing care and implementing effective HIV prevention policies.1
People with HIV face pre-judgment, marginalization, discrimination and severe misunderstanding about the means and
actual risks of transmission.
Almost thirty years after the first cases of infection by the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were reported,
ignorance and fear about HIV and bias against people affected
by HIV continue to fuel stigma and discrimination in this
As a result of vast improvements in HIV treatment, more and more people with HIV are reaching retirement
and enjoying the “golden years” that lie beyond. Sadly, however, some are facing discrimination as they seek
living arrangements and long-term care services suitable for seniors.
More than two decades have elapsed since the first HIV cases were identified in the United States, but the unfortunate reality
is that there is still stigma associated with HIV. Too often, disclosure that a person has HIV wreaks havoc on that person’s
Prisoners living with HIV may have trouble getting the health care they need and deserve. If untreated or
mistreated, HIV can result in serious illness or even death. To prevent these things from happening, people living
with HIV in prison should be aware of—and insist upon—their legal right to medical care.
The information provided here is a summary of provisions of the referenced statutes. In most instances, the wording used here is wording
found in the referenced statutes (one exception is that “HIV” is used for convenience in this chart although the statute may use a different
term, such as “AIDS” or “causative agent of AIDS”).
Today, more than one million people nationwide are living with HIV, and tens of thousands of new infections occur each year. People living with HIV continue to face widespread discrimination in employment, health care, housing, parenting, immigration, criminal justice and many other areas of life.