Sign On TODAY! National Organizations Against Hep C Criminalization
Right now a bill is moving through the Michigan state legislature which
would expand the current law criminalizing non-disclosure of HIV status
with a sexual partner to include hepatitis C. NVHR is collaborating with
the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, the Positive Justice Project, and
Michigan advocates to show the support of national organizations for
the state's hepatitis C and HIV advocates who are trying to stop this
bill in its tracks.
Please consider signing your organization on to the letter below to
Michigan State Senate and House leadership, to send a message that we
stand united with Michiganders in our view that criminalization of
people living with hepatitis C and HIV is wrong. Period.
To sign on, please email Christine Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org by COB tomorrow, Friday, December 12, 2014.
This initial letter is for national organizations only, but we are
collecting sign-ons from all organizations to use in future efforts. If
there are additional opportunities for local organizations outside of
Michigan to weigh in, we will reach out -- NVHR is deferring to local
advocates on strategy.
Thank you for your time and support!
Christine Rodriguez, MPH
Public Policy Manager
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
1424 K Street NW #200 | Washington, DC 20005
office: 202.408.4848 x221 | cell: 703.945.9698
| web: www.nvhr.org
Text of letter:
Governor Rick Snyder
Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Senate President
Senator Randy Richardville, Senate Majority Leader
Senator Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Minority Leader
Senator Roger Kahn
Representative Jase Bolger, Speaker of the House
Representative Tim Greimel, Minority Leader
Re: Senate Bill No. 1130
Dear Leadership of the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives:
On behalf of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the HIV Prevention
Justice Alliance, the Positive Justice Project and the undersigned
medical, infectious disease, public health and allied organizations, we
are writing to ask that you strongly oppose Michigan Senate Bill 1130
(SB 1130), which would amend sections 5101 and 5210 of Act 368 of the
Public Health Code. This bill would compound the problems of the current
HIV felony law – adopted when HIV was far less understood or treatable –
by creating new felony penalties for people with the hepatitis C virus
(HCV) for any kind of sexual penetration with an uninformed partner.
We are grateful to Senator Roger Kahn for bringing attention to the
issue of HCV infections in Michigan and share his concern for the health
and safety of all Michigan residents. We support legislative action
that will increase testing and care for HCV and improve the well-being
of Michiganders. For that reason, we oppose SB 1130 as contrary to these
goals, and urge you to oppose this bill.
In Michigan, it currently is a felony for those who know they are HIV
positive to engage in “sexual penetration, however slight” without first
disclosing that status to a partner. Sexual penetration is defined to
include oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse, but also includes inserting
an “object” into a person’s “genital or oral openings.” (Act 368 of
1978, MCL§333.5210, available at
HCV is a blood borne virus that is seldom spread sexually, particularly
among heterosexual couples, yet SB 1130 proposes to make people
diagnosed with HCV prone to felony charges if an infected individual has
“sexual penetration” without informing his or her partner.
Medical experts and public health officials agree that policies that
criminalize the conduct of people living with communicable diseases,
such as HCV, do nothing to decrease the rates of infection and, in fact,
actually deter conduct and decisions that reduce disease transmission.
Consequently, organizations such as the American Medical Association,
the HIV Medicine Association/Infectious Disease Society of America, the
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, and the National Alliance of State
and Territorial AIDS Directors all have issued statements calling for an
end to use of the criminal law to deal with exposure to or transmission
of HIV and other infectious diseases, including HCV. The U.S.
Conference of Mayors, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and
the U.S. Department of Justice all have issued statements and guidance
calling for an end to felony prosecutions of people living with HIV. A
bill that proposes not only to reaffirm Michigan’s outdated law on HIV
but to add HCV is at direct odds with this growing national consensus.
Public health problems are not solved with criminal justice responses.
Instead, we should be encouraging people to get tested and treated:
- An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic
HCV infection. Most people – approximately 75% – do not know they are
infected because they do not look or feel sick. Similarly, approximately
20% of people living with HIV do not yet know their status. It is
critical to eliminate rather than create additional barriers to testing
by expanding serious criminal penalties that affect only those who
actually get tested.
- Incarceration is an established risk factor for HCV infection, so
jailing HCV affected individuals undermines attempts to halt the spread
of the disease, at increased cost to taxpayers.
- Many people at risk for HCV do not know they are at risk or how to prevent becoming infected.
- Funding programs that expand public knowledge about the routes of
HCV infection, awareness about testing opportunities, and expanded
treatment access is the most effective way to curb the spread of HCV in
Michigan, and is in fact less expensive than incarcerating those who get
We strongly urge you to oppose SB 1130 for the following reasons:
- SB 1130 undermines critical public health goals. Creating felons of
those who may not disclose their disease status – even when they do not
intend to cause a partner any harm – further stigmatizes both HIV and
HCV and could discourage testing and engagement in care.
- SB 1130 is an inappropriate criminal justice response to a public
health problem. The collateral consequences of a felony charge – highly
damaging to housing, employment, educational, and other opportunities –
represent lifelong and unjust punishment in comparison to the supposed
crime and decreases the pool of employable Michiganders. Singling out
HCV status or any other health condition or disability as an element of a
crime or as proof of intent to harm is unjust and unwarranted from
legal, ethical, and public health perspectives. A just application of
the criminal law requires that any prosecution of an individual for
harming another be based on: (a) proof of an intent to harm; (b) conduct
that is likely to result in that harm; (c) proof that the conduct of
the accused in fact resulted in the alleged harm; and (d) punishment
that is proportionate to the actual harm caused by the defendant’s
- SB 1130 has no basis in current science. Arrests and imprisonment
are called for in cases in which transmission is not even possible. It
is pointless to expand, as this bill does, the criminalization of what
amounts to poor or misleading communication in the context of a
consensual sexual relationship. This is an issue far more appropriately
addressed through education, not punitive and expensive measures such as
- SB 1130 ignores recent and ongoing advances in HIV and HCV
treatment. There was a time when both HIV and HCV were highly damaging
to both the body and overall lifespan, with limited treatment options.
Since then, there have been remarkable advances in treatment. Current
HCV drug regimens are highly effective with over 90 percent cure rates
and few if any side effects. HIV medication also is now highly effective
in both controlling disease progression and in reducing an already low
transmission risk to near zero.
- SB 1130 is an inappropriate and ineffective cost-containment
measure. HCV advocates are highly cognizant of and concerned by the
challenges posed by hepatitis C treatment costs. Attempting to control
such costs by imprisoning people living with HCV, however, is not only
unethical but also counterproductive, as taxpayers are saddled with the
additional expense of incarceration. This strategy also places excessive
burden on the correctional system to finance HCV treatment, and is
likely to both increase transmission and restrict treatment access.
As HCV and HIV care providers and patient advocates, we are compelled to
address well intentioned but misguided legislation like SB 1130. We
thank you for your attention to this matter, and welcome the opportunity
to discuss the problems associated with SB 1130 in more detail or to
provide additional information you may find helpful. In the meantime,
the position statements referenced above are available in the appendix
Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Resolution on Ending Federal
and State HIV-Specific Criminal Laws, Prosecutions, and Civil
Commitments (2013) (noting that the criminalization of HIV-affected
people fuels HIV stigma), available
American Medical Association, Modernization of HIV Specific Criminal
Laws (2014), available
HIV Medicine Association, Repeal of HIV-Specific Criminal
Statutes (2012), available at
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, National
HIV/AIDS Strategy Imperative: Fighting Stigma and Discrimination by
Repealing HIV-Specific Criminal Statutes (2011), available at www.nastad.org/Docs/114641_2011311_NASTAD%20Statement%20on%20Criminalization%20-%20Final.pdf
National Association of County & City Health Officials
, Statement of Policy: Opposing Stigma and Discrimination Against Persons with Communicable Diseases
(2013), available at http://www.naccho.org/advocacy/positions/upload/13-11-Opposing-Stigma-and-Discrimination-against-Persons-with-Communicable-Diseases-2.pdf
The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, HIV Criminalization Laws and
Policies Promote Discrimination and Must Be Reformed (2014), available
U.S. Conference of Mayors, Resolution on HIV Discrimination and
Criminalization (2013), available at
Positive Justice Project, National Consensus Statement on the
Criminalization of HIV (2012), available
(this statement has more than 1000 organizational and individual
endorsements from across the United States).
U.S. Department of Justice, Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific
Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors (2014),