SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers are working to update a bill that could send a person with HIV to prison for up to 15 years.
Right now, if an HIV-positive individual knowingly transmits HIV to another person, they are looking at time behind bars.
“The relationship ended and the person felt that it was necessary for them to press charges against me for not disclosing my HIV status,” said Robert Suttle, a man living with HIV.
The current Missouri HIV criminalization bill written in the 1980s has the same language as the one Suttle had encountered in Louisiana.
An individual can be charged with criminal offenses even if the HIV positive individual takes precautions to prevent transmission.
“There’s Antiretroviral treatment for the preson with HIV and there’s also prep which is for people who are HIV negative,” said Suttle.
Lynne Meyerkord with AIDS Project of the Ozarks said it is now time to revise the bill to reflect current science and medical resources.
“So between the prevention medication and the medication to surpress the virus, people basically aren’t contagious sexually.”
Representative Phil Christofanelli (R) District 105 said he agrees to an update of the bill.
“HIV has become a manageable disease,” said Christofanelli.
If the bill passes, it would provide a defense to any criminal liability if two people consented to have sex. The bill would also include people with HPV and Hepatitis.
For more information, watch reporter Frances Lin’s full-length story in the digital extra.