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House bill would change laws that address alleged crimes committed by HIV-positive Hoosiers

Under HB 1198, intent would become a consideration when charging someone.

INDIANAPOLIS — It's been 35 years since doctors handed Carrie Foote what she thought was a death sentence, telling her she had HIV. 

"I was told I was going to die. I had about three years to live," Foote said. "Fortunately, I lived long enough to reap the benefits of modern medicine and here I am today."

The IUPUI sociology professor testified this week at the Statehouse in support of a bill that supporters say modernizes Indiana's laws dealing with HIV, incorporating what's known today about the disease and how it's transmitted. 

Right now, if you don't have HIV and spit on someone, it's a minor charge.   

For someone like Foote, who has HIV, spitting would be considered a felony. If the target is a police officer, the crime is considered even more serious, and the suspect could serve even more time behind bars. 

"Even though spit doesn't transmit HIV," Foote explained. Therein lies her issue with current laws. 

Under House Bill 1198, spitting on a public safety officer would still be considered a serious crime, but not because the person doing it is HIV positive. 

"Hold people accountable for any kind of aggressive behavior, but don't treat people differently because they live with a disease," Foote said.

Another change: Under the current law, people with HIV are required to disclose their status to a sexual or needle-sharing partner, both ways in which you can get HIV. 

The proposed bill would make it an even more serious crime if someone knows they're HIV positive and doesn't tell their sexual or needle-sharing partner because they're trying to spread the disease and cause harm.  

In other words, intent would become a consideration when charging someone. 

"Hold them accountable under the law just like we would for any other crime against a person," Foote said.

Supporters like Foote say changing these laws will help take away the stigma that still surrounds HIV and encourage people to get tested and know their status because they won't be worried that a positive status will be criminalized.

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