HIV decriminalization bill will encourage more people to get tested, advocate says

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A bipartisan state bill that would decriminalize HIV overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House of Representatives last week 90-9, and is now making its way through the Senate.

ACLU Illinois calls the state’s HIV criminalization law outdated, dangerous and discriminatory. The 1989 law allows for prosecution of people living with HIV for transmitting the virus through consensual sex, needle-sharing or donating blood.

Deric Kimler, executive director of Central Illinois Friends, a social services organization for people living with HIV, said one in seven people living with HIV don’t know they have it. He said the law is ineffective as it discourages people from getting tested or disclosing their status for fear of getting arrested.

“For many years we have criminalized people living with HIV for having sex. It’s the only disease that has been criminalized,” he said.

Kimler said passing House Bill 1063 to decriminalize HIV would lead to more people getting tested, and eventually get rid of the disease.

“It is one of the most expensive viruses to live with. We have the ability to end it, and this bill being taken off the books is going to start the end of the race, [the] marathon to get to zero HIV diagnoses in the state,” Kimler said.

Kimler said one year of HIV treatment runs around $35,000 to 40,000 before insurance. People are living longer because of medical advances, and it’s all the more reason to get rid of the law.

“If you actually spread out all the facts about this case and show the science and the medical backing, it is asinine that this law is on the books. Anybody that’s human should be for this,” he said.

There are approximately 45,000 people living with HIV in Illinois, according to advocacy group AIDS Foundation Chicago.

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