Iowa House unanimously votes to soften state's HIV criminalization law

The Iowa House and Senate has passed a historic law that will soften Iowa's current discriminatory HIV law. The current law was written based on antiquated science and understandings about HIV/AIDS, and has been known to discourage many from getting tested because of Iowa’s harsh penalties when a person is aware of their status and does not disclose their status to a sexual partner. The new bill, Senate File 2297, will now go to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk for him to sign.

"After 5 long years of fighting to change Iowa's law, those of us living in Iowa with HIV and AIDS can finally breathe a sigh of relief," said Tami Haught, Community Organizer with CHAIN. "We commend the leadership in the Senate and the House for understanding the importance of this bill and the need to modernize Iowa's draconian 709c law. None of this would be possible without the bipartisan support of Senators Matt McCoy, Steve Sodders, Charles Schneider and Rob Hogg; in addition to Representatives Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Chris Hagenow and Chip Baltimore. The changes in this new bill are a step in the right direction.

"We are pleased to see Iowa's policy makers move this bill forward," said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director for One Iowa. "The changes proposed in this bill will have a profound impact on the lives of Iowans living with HIV and AIDS. This bill will send an important message across the nation, most significantly to those states that still operate under the misinformation of the past. We applaud CHAIN's efforts, but especially the work of Community Organizer Tami Haught. Tami has fearlessly and passionately shared her story with legislators and community members alike. She has changed hearts and minds, and should be commended as one of the many unsung heroes of this movement. After 5 years of conversations and perseverance, today we celebrate a victory for Iowa's HIV community."

It has been over 30 years since the AIDS epidemic began. Since then there have been countless breakthroughs in treatment, testing, prevention and education. But we are still forced to face the hurtful stigma associated with HIV. Iowa has taken a step in the right direction, but there is still a long road ahead to end the shame and stigma attached to HIV. Being HIV positive is not a crime and should not be treated as criminal. The fear of an HIV diagnoss is frightening enough without having the threat of jail added to the struggle. Iowa's new bill comes just before Grinnel College "First National Conference on HIV Criminalization", which will happen June 2nd through the 5th. 

One Iowa has the full press release.