CHICAGO — Illinoisans can no longer face criminal charges for not disclosing their HIV status before having unprotected sex.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill Tuesday decriminalizing the transmission of HIV, repealing what he called an “archaic” law that allowed people living with HIV to be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated because of their health status.
In doing so, Illinois is the first state in nearly three decades to erase such a law. Texas repealed its HIV criminal law in 1994.
The legislation was one of four bills aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ people Pritzker signed into law at the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s largest LGBTQ community center, at 3656 N. Halsted St. Pritzker said the bills will help LGBTQ people “live their fullest as their truest selves.”
Illinois’ HIV criminalization became law in 1989. Its repeal is effective immediately.
Illinois was previously one of 37 states that criminalized HIV exposure in some way, according to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the laws were born out of panic surrounding the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
“Research has shown these laws don’t decrease infection rates, but they do increase stigma,” Pritzker said. “It’s high time we treat HIV as we do other treatable, transmissible diseases.”
Timothy Jackson, director of government relations for the AIDS Foundation Chicago, said repealing the law would help achieve the state’s goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030.
“We know the most effective way to address the HIV epidemic is through testing and treatment,” Jackson said.
The legislative package the governor signed also expands infertility treatment coverage for Illinoisans. Same-sex couples, women older than 35 and single people were previously excluded from coverage for fertility treatments in the state, Pritzker said.
“Fertility journeys can be deeply expensive, personal and emotional, and I’m very proud to sign the law that removes a part of that burden for the would-be parents in Illinois,” Pritzker said.
The final two laws dealt with marriage certificates. The first allows for couples to request birth certificates with gender-neutral language or no gender language at all, while the second makes it easier for couples to correct their name and gender on their marriage certificates.
Pritzker said the new laws will help solidify Illinois as a “beacon of equality and hope for the national LGBTQ community.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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