CARSON CITY, NV – The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday advanced a bill to reform and modernize Nevada’s outdated, ineffective and discriminatory HIV criminal laws. Senate Bill (SB) 275 will create a framework for recognizing HIV as a public health issue, rather than a criminal one, and encourages increased HIV testing, treatment and the use of other preventative options that will help to reduce the spread of HIV and finally end the 40-year epidemic. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Dallas Harris (District 11), passed by a bipartisan vote.
Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization and a partner of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition, is encouraged by Thursday’s passage of SB 275.
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:
“With the advancement of Senate Bill 275, we have every reason to be hopeful that Nevada law will soon treat HIV as the public health issue that it is, rather than as a crime. Nevada is now one step closer to eroding the stigma attached to being HIV positive and lowering HIV transmission rates to ultimately end the HIV epidemic. Three decades ago, legislators passed laws at the height of the epidemic that criminalized certain behaviors of people living with HIV. In the decades since, societal and medical understanding of HIV has greatly improved. Effective treatments dramatically lengthen and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and offer treatments that nearly eliminate the possibility of transmission. It’s time that Nevada’s laws reflected those advancements. I want to thank Senator Harris and the members of the Health and Human Services Committee for their commitment to modernizing Nevada’s HIV laws.”
Senator Harris, Co-Chair of the Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, said:
“We’re encouraged and grateful that the Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance this important bill that puts Nevada closer to modernizing its HIV-related laws. Today’s action underscores a full understanding of the need to update laws that are out of sync with modern science and ineffective at stopping the HIV epidemic, keeping Nevada at the forefront of a national trend to reform outdated, ineffective and discriminatory HIV-related laws.”
Connie Shearer, Co-Chair of the Nevada HIV Modernization Coalition, said:
“Those not living with HIV may not understand that the most damning effect of HIV criminalization is not the actual accusation of charges, that are usually reduced and or dropped. Rather, the most harmful aspect of HIV criminalization is the stigmatizing language used by the media, the public, and legislative bodies that continue to perpetuate misinformation and outdated myths, fears, and opinions about HIV and how it is spread. Those like me, who are living with HIV and are informed about HIV, understand that modern science has made it possible to live well and safely with an HIV diagnosis. That’s why modernizing outdated laws, using language that supports science, is the first step to ending that practice.”
Modernization of HIV criminal laws — like those in Nevada that SB 275 seeks to amend — is supported by public health officials, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and a bipartisan group of elected officials and civil rights leaders across the country.
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.