Indiana bill would update laws for crimes committed by HIV-positive people

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:21 PM EST
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WNDU) - On Thursday, Hoosiers advocated for a bill that seeks to update how the state handles criminal cases involving someone who is HIV-positive.

Indiana’s laws that deal with HIV were written over three decades ago at a time when the medical understanding of HIV was still vastly under-researched.

HIV was once considered a death sentence, but with medical breakthroughs in the last two decades, those living with HIV now have the ability to live full, long lives.

It’s been 35 years since doctors handed Carrie Foote that particular death sentence.

“I was told I was going to die,” Foote recalled. “I had about three years to live. Fortunately, I lived long enough to reap the benefits of modern medicine and here I am today.”

Testifying this week at the Statehouse in support of a bill that supports, as Foote says, the modernization of Indiana’s laws dealing with HIV.

Right now, if you don’t have HIV and spit on someone in the state, it’s a minor charge.

If you have HIV, that would be considered a felony, and if the target is a police officer, the crime is considered even more serious, and the suspect could serve even more time behind bars.

“Even though spit doesn’t transmit HIV,” Foote explained.

Under House Bill 1198, spitting on a public safety officer would still be considered a serious crime, but not because the person doing it was HIV positive.

“Hold people accountable for any kind of aggressive behavior, but don’t treat people differently because they live with a disease,” Foote said.

Supporters of changing these laws say it will help take away the stigma that still surrounds HIV and will encourage people to get tested and know their status because they won’t be worried that their status will be criminalized.

Currently, an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States aged 13 and older have HIV.

HIV cannot be transmitted by:

  • Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat
  • Shaking hands
  • Hugging
  • Sharing food utensils
  • Swimming in the same pool
  • Using the same toilet seats
  • Bites from insects or other animals