SB 239 – HIV transmission laws

I’ll start this post not with a bill but with another little plug for my former outlet Capitol Weekly: they’re posting this great series of explainers on California’s legislative process, and if you’re reading this blog (or writing it), these pieces are super helpful to get a grip on how the state Legislature works.

Also, I’ll throw in an update on a bill I’ve covered–SB 31 passed out of committee unanimously.

Now to today’s law: SB 239.

The Basics

  • Would reform the criminal penalties associated for having sex without disclosing HIV-positive status. This bill would lessen the penalty of the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor, as intentional transmission of most diseases already is under California law.

Who to Call

  • Your state senator, especially if they are on the Public Safety Committee. The bill is in the Public Safety Committee with a hearing scheduled for March 28.


I’ll try to keep this brief because this area of legislation is exactly the type of thing I wrote my honors thesis on and would love to get into the weeds on. But since you’re probably not following this blog for a dissertation on Foucault’s theories of human sexuality and power relations, I’ll just give you the bill text and some bullets, but you really should go read this article on Stat News.

  • Here’s the full text of the bill.
  • Right now, it’s a felony punishable by imprisonment to have unprotected sex with the intent of transmitting HIV to another person. Intent can even be construed as knowingly failing to communicate HIV-positive status, even if you don’t transmit the disease. Senator Scott Wiener’s bill would make it a misdemeanor to transmit any infectious communicable disease. Wiener and advocates argue that existing law, which singles out HIV for generally harsher penalties, is discriminatory.
  • Honestly, go read this Stat news article, I found myself writing and rewriting the details of this bill with such difficulty because this issue is so loaded with history, emotion, and politics. I could barely find news articles with headlines that I considered neutral. Foucault on the brain.

Media Coverage




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