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Prefiled Missouri bill could reduce felony charges for exposing someone with HIV

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 9:08 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A bill filed in the Missouri Senate for next year would reduce the punishment for someone knowingly exposing another person with HIV.

The Executive Director at AIDS Project of the Ozarks said the changes this bill would bring should have happened years ago. The proposal has also been backed by the HIV Justice Coalition and organization Empower Missouri.

“I personally got diagnosed at a very young age, I was 17,” said Tasha Schill.

Schill said Missouri’s current HIV laws could deter a lot of people from seeking testing and medication.

”You have a unofficial motto in the local communities where it’s ‘take the test and risk arrest,’ because if you know your diagnosis you know that holds you liable, but if you don’t know?” Schill said. “Then we have more people out there who are spreading it and it becomes a domino affect.”

Senate Bill 65, pre-filed ahead of next year’s legislative session, would lessen the charge for knowingly exposing someone with HIV from a Class B felony to a Class D felony. If the person exposed contracts HIV, it could knock off up to 23 years from their maximum sentence, changing it from a Class A felony to a Class C felony.

”Things are very different now, very, very different and we very rarely encounter someone who knowingly wants to infect someone else,” said Lynne Meyerkord, the Executive Director of the AIDS Project of the Ozarks.

Meyerkord said this bill would be a win for the HIV community.

”It still holds folks that are truly acting recklessly or intentionally, it still doesn’t allow them off the hook,” she said. “There’s still teeth there that can address that behavior.”

Meyerkord said the current laws could place people with HIV in a difficult situation.

“Those of us in the HIV community are aware of folks who the relationship went south and the partner knew the individual had HIV but they claimed they didn’t, and I’ve known of people that have gone to jail for that,” Meyerkord said.

Meyerkord said the possibility of charges could also be held over someone as a fear-tactic in an abusive relationship.

Schill said with medication, HIV can become undetected and untransmittable.

”That right there, you know get tested, take your meds, you are no longer a risk to the people around you to you know your lovers, your friends, your family whoever,” Schill said. “Just get tested, know your status, take your meds.”

This is just one of a series of three pre-filed bills regarding HIV. The other two would expand access to medication and establish a needle and syringe exchange program.

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