CARSON CITY, NV –
Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization and a partner of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition, praised Nevada legislators for their bipartisan passage of legislation that modernizes Nevada’s HIV criminal laws.
Senate Bill (SB) 275, introduced by Sen. Dallas Harris, won approval with a unanimous vote in the Nevada Senate and by a 26-15 vote in the Assembly. The bill now moves to the Governor for his signature.
The bill repeals a Nevada statute that makes it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct that is intended or likely to transmit the disease. Repealing that statute means a person who has contracted HIV and who engaged in such behavior would instead be given a warning as their first offense and, after a second offense, would be guilty of a misdemeanor — a punishment that is consistent with the treatment of other communicable diseases.
The bipartisan show of support impressed HIV activists who have been advocating for years to reform state laws that criminalize HIV with the goal of ensuring they are sync with advances in modern medicine that make transmission of the virus impossible.
Silver State Equality released the following statement from State Director André C. Wade, who — along with Sen. Harris — serves as Co-Chair of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization:
The organization released the following statement from State Director André C. Wade, who — along with Sen. Harris — serves as Co-Chair of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization:
“We are extremely pleased with the passage of SB275 via a strong bipartisan vote. This action will advance the fight against HIV transmission and help to remove HIV stigma that was perpetuated by outdated criminal laws that discouraged disclosure, and thereby testing, treatment and the use of other preventative measures. Even though changing these outdated, ineffective and discriminatory laws is simply common-sense progress, this is a huge move in the right direction. Its passage shows that the years of advocating around this issue are paying off. Our legislators and Nevada citizenry are beginning to understand that the old laws were born out of an era when evidence-based knowledge about HIV risk, transmission and treatment were exceedingly limited. Thank you to the Nevada Legislature, especially Senator Dallas Harris, who authored SB275, and for keeping Nevada at the forefront of LGBTQ+ and civil rights reform.”
Senator Harris, Co-Chair of the Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, said:
“The bipartisan passage of this bill reverses practices that were put in place during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and have proven ineffective and counterproductive from a public health perspective. The old laws also disproportionately affected already marginalized groups, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people. Passage of SB275 helps to remove the statutory stigma that was intentionally placed into our laws that’s done nothing but harm to those who contracted HIV.”
According to a recent report by the UCLA Williams Institute, which analyzed data from the state of Nevada, between 2011 and 2020, arrests for HIV crimes were double the amount from the previous decade and arrests for HIV crimes fell disproportionately on black Nevadans. Black people are 10 percent of Nevada’s population and 28 percent of people living with HIV in the state, but 40 percent of those who have been arrested for HIV crimes.
Connie Shearer, Co-Chair of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition, said:
“While it’s true that the majority of arrests under HIV criminal laws are reduced or dismissed, the outdated laws continued to perpetuate misinformation and antiquated myths, fears and opinions about HIV and how it is spread. With the passage of SB275, the Nevada Legislature chose science over outdated and irrational fear.”
For more information, visit www.silverstateequality.org/hiv.
As Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, Silver State Equality brings the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in Nevada and throughout the U.S. Silver State Equality strives to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. Silver State Equality is a Nevada-based program affiliated with and supported by Equality California and Equality California Institute, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. More information at SilverStateEquality.org.