A California law that makes exposing sex partners to HIV a felony is too narrow, making it difficult to convict those accused of doing so, some California prosecutors said Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. Only one person has been convicted of exposing others to HIV in the five years since the law was enacted. California's law requires prosecutors to prove that anyone charged with exposing others to HIV acted with the deliberate intent of infecting sex partners, a condition prosecutors say is nearly impossible to prove. HIV exposure laws in 24 other states make it a crime for HIV-positive people to engage in unprotected sex without first informing their sex partners of their HIV status. AIDS activists say the California law is appropriate because it protects HIV-positive people from being unfairly charged or being the victims of unfounded accusations by former sex partners. But legal experts say the measure does not provide enough legal recourse to those unknowingly exposed to HIV.
The law has come under increased scrutiny because it is at the heart of a criminal investigation under way in San Francisco to determine whether city health commissioner Ron Hill should be charged with knowingly infecting his former partner, Thomas Lister, with HIV. Lister testified before a grand jury last week that Hill knew he was infected with HIV but repeatedly lied to him about his HIV status during their five-month relationship. Lister tested positive for HIV antibodies in October 2002. Last year Hill was ordered to pay Lister $5 million in damages through a civil lawsuit Lister filed against the former health commissioner.