HIV criminalization is a term used to describe statutes that either criminalize otherwise legal conduct or that increase the penalties for illegal conduct based upon a person’s HIV-positive status. While only one HIV criminalization law can be found in federal law, more than two-thirds of states and territories across the United States have enacted their own HIV criminal laws. Some HIV criminal laws do not require transmission of HIV, and in some states, these laws criminalize conduct that poses a negligible risk of transmission, such as spitting or biting. California has four HIV-specific criminal laws, and one non-HIV-specific criminal law that criminalizes exposure to any communicable disease.
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