Colorado Activists Celebrate Modernization of HIV Criminal Laws

Decades-old criminal laws modernized to reflect modern science on the routes, risks and realities of HIV transmission.

ColoradoBillSigning.jpg

Governor Hickenlooper and the Mod squad at the sit in Senate Bill 146. Photo by Thomas J Bogdan

After two years of hard work to modernize HIV criminalization laws, Barb Cardell and the Colorado Mod Squad achieved a major victory when Senate Bill (SB) 146 was signed into law on June 6th. The bill “repeals two HIV criminalization statutes, reforms another and standardizes and modernizes statutory language addressing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.”

The bill was introduced by the MOD Squad with support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was sponsored by Senator Pat Steadman and Representative Daneya Esgar.

Prior to modernization, sex work or solicitation, by a sex worker who had knowledge of his or her HIV infection, was a felony; and penetrative sexual assault with knowledge of HIV infection could mean that the sentence for the assault could be tripled. SB 146 eliminated felony offenses involving sex work and HIV, while modernizing much of the statutory language concerning sexually transmitted infections in the health code. While the sentencing enhancement for sexual assault by a person living with HIV remains in the criminal code, amendments included in SB 146 reduced the enhancement to twice the original sentence, and requires the prosecution to prove transmission. Regulations that will dictate how the Department of Health interprets these new provisions, particularly with the new inclusion of HIV, will be a very important focus of future advocacy in Colorado.

For further background on the bill and interviews with MOD Squad members, see this The Body article published just prior to Governor John Hickenlooper’s signing of the bill:
Activists Win Legislative Overhaul of Colorado's HIV Criminalization Laws, Await Governor's Signature