NJ decriminalizes HIV transmission by sexual activity
TRENTON – It is no longer a crime to engage in sexual activity while knowingly infected with HIV or a venereal disease, under most circumstances.
Under legislation signed into law this week, only people who act with specific intent to transmit an infectious or communicable disease — including HIV — and who pass the disease to another person would face a disorderly persons offense — downgraded from a third-degree charge.
If convicted, that offense is punishable by six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
The law also requires that in prosecutions for such incidents, the names of the defendant and the other individual be kept confidential.
“Unfortunately, over the years, there has been a culture of criminally targeting HIV-positive individuals in general, rather than targeting those who intentionally expose others. The criminal code is meant to punish actions that harm others, not discriminate against people living with a chronic health condition,” Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, one of the measure’s primary sponsors, said in a written statement.
“Signing this piece of legislation into law is a step in the right direction toward reforming the system,” she continued.
More than 38,000 state residents are living with HIV/AIDS, according to state health officials this past Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.
“While working with advocates to identify areas to improve our harm reduction system of care, they identified updating our statutes to reflect what we now know about the transmission of certain diseases, especially in light of the advances in treatment, as a huge priority,” Senator Joe Vitale, another primary sponsor, said in the same release.
Under a plan released last month, the state Health Department pledged commitment to try and end the HIV epidemic by 2025 with the following goals:
— Reduce the number of new HIV infections by 75%
— Promote access to testing so 100% of individuals living with HIV/AIDS know their status
— Promote access/linkage to care so 90% of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are virally suppressed
“Ending the stigma around HIV is a necessity to ending the AIDS epidemic,” Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino said in the same joint statement on Tuesday.