Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee ( D-Calif.) was joined by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) to introduce H.R. 1843, the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (REPEAL) HIV Discrimination Act. The REPEAL Act expresses the sense of Congress that federal and state laws, policies, and regulations should not place a unique or additional burden on individuals solely as a result of their HIV status.
"These laws are based on bias, not science. We need to make sure that our federal and state laws don't discriminate against people who are living with HIV. These laws breed fear, discrimination, distrust, and hatred, and we've got to modernize them. That's exactly what this legislation would do," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Today, 32 states and 2 U.S. territories have criminal statutes based on outdated information regarding HIV/AIDS. This bipartisan legislation would allow federal and state officials and community stakeholders to work together to review the efficacy of laws that target people living with HIV/AIDS. The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act would authorize the Attorney General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Defense to monitor new and existing laws imposing criminal liability against people with HIV/AIDS and to establish a set of best practices for legislatures to consider when proposing such legislation.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen added, "I'm pleased to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill that will help end the serious problem of discrimination in criminal and civil cases against those who are HIV positive. Singling out and discriminating against those living with HIV is not in line with our American values and we must do better. The legislation seeks to modernize our current outdated laws and bring them into the 21st century. I urge my Republican and Democrat colleagues to join Barbara and me in helping those persons living with HIV live as healthy and normal a life as possible."
If passed, the act will be a key step towards ending unfair and unjust HIV criminalization laws in the United States by developing a set of best practices for the treatment of HIV in criminal and civil commitment cases, issuing guidance to states based on those best practices, and monitoring how states change policies consistent with that guidance.
Congresswoman Lee has been a leader in the fight against the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. She co-authored legislation signed into law creating the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in 2000, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, the PEPFAR Reauthorization Act in 2008, and in 2005 legislation addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS. She has also been a leader in the effort to establish a National AIDS Strategy, and is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services & Education with jurisdiction over all domestic HIV/AIDS funding. She is the only United States representative on United Nations Development Programme's Global Commission on HIV and the Law and was the original sponsor of legislation that lead to the repeal of the Immigration and Travel ban that barred the entry of HIV positive individuals. The repeal allowed the International AIDS conference to take place in July 2012 in Washington, D.C., which was held in the U.S. for the first time after 20 years.