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New Jersey Decriminalizes Sexual Activity by People Living with HIV

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On Friday, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed a new bill (S3707/A5673) into law which repeals an old statute that criminalized sexual penetration by people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The bill also requires that, in cases that do result in prosecutions for endangering another, the identities of both parties be kept confidential.

The move is a huge win for the HIV community’s fight for decriminalization nation-wide, and advocates are applauding Murphy for pushing the bill through.

“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,” said bill supporter Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, in an official press release. “Signing this piece of legislation into law is a step in the right direction toward reforming the system.”

In addition to Ruiz, the decriminalization bill’s primary sponsors included Senator Joe Vitale and former Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joann Downey, and Andrew Zwicker.

“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, said Vitale. “Signing this bill into law will better protect and destigmatize individuals living with HIV in our state. I am thankful to the advocates who brought this issue to our attention, not only for leading the way on solid public health policy, but also in serving those in need in New Jersey.”

The assembly members also noted that decriminalizing HIV is a vital part of eliminating stigma around the virus.

“For far too long, stigma around HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ community has guided our laws. This legislation ensures that New Jersey moves forward guided by public health, not bigotry. We are honored to be working alongside Garden State Equality, Hyacinth and the Harm Reduction Coalition to put forth this historic legislation,” said Huttle, Downey, and Zwicker in the statement.

“For decades, the HIV epidemic has had devastating effects on New Jersey, particularly in our LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color,” said Governor Murphy. “Repealing the outdated law will eliminate the stigma and fear associated with testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, encouraging more individuals to be proactive in learning about their health. This new law, coupled with advances in modern science and medicine, will bolster our efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New Jersey.”

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