Work Continues To Repeal Md. Law Making Transmission Or Attempted Transmission Of HIV Virus Criminal

The legislation is sponsored by Frederick County Delegate Kris Fair.

Delegate Kris Fair (Photo from Maryland General Assembly)

Annapolis, Md (KM) A bill to repeal a law on Maryland’s books making it illegal to knowingly spread or attempt to spread the HIV virus is making its way through the General Assembly. “The HIV Criminalization bill has passed the House with bipartisan support,” says Frederick County Delegate Kris Fair, the bill’s sponsor. “It continues to be a question of whether or not it’s the will of the Senate to pass it.”

The legislation is before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.  No hearing has been scheduled, and the General Assembly adjourns for the year on Monday, April 8th at midnight.

Frederick County State Senator Karen Lewis Young is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.

The current law, passed in 1989, makes it a criminal offense to “knowingly transfer or attempt to transfer” the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. It was adopted at a time when there was there was not much known about the how HIV is detected, transmitted or treated. Since that, treatments have been developed to control HIV.

Fair says this law is “an incredibly dangerous tool” that’s done more harm than good. “An individual bites somebody and that person that’s  biting them has HIV, even though there’s no possibility of transmission by scientific standards,”: he says. “People have used this exact code to charge an individual with a crime which potentially can put them in prison for three years, and charge them a $2500 fine for a bite; or for spitting at somebody.”

“People living with HIV have this kind of Sword of Damocles hanging over their head,” he continues. “In every single social situation they have no control over being able to make the right decision.”

This legislation has the support of the Office of the Attorney General, the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s; Office and the Maryland State Bar Association.

If this law is repealed, Fair says prosecutors have other means to go after those who knowingly transmit HIV to those who are not infected. “Cases that people are most concerned about which is the actual, intentional, attempt to transfer, or transferring any STD’s {Sexually Transmitted Diseases} is covered in reckless endangerment and that is what our state prosecutors use,”: he says.

There’s not much time left to get this bill through the Senate as adjournment day for the General Assembly is fast approaching. “And I’m very hopeful they will do the right thing and repeal this 35-year-old code that has done vastly more harm than good in our public health space.,”; says Fair.

By Kevin McManus