Breaking News: Governor Terry Branstad signs historic HIV bill into law

DES MOINES–Today, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a historic HIV bill that will impact Iowans living with HIV and AIDS, making Iowa the first state in the nation to reform HIV criminalization statute. There are currently 34 other states in the U.S. with HIV specific criminal laws.

The Iowa bill, Senate File 2297 (SF2297), will modernize Iowa’s discriminatory HIV law, 709c, which is based on outdated science and beliefs that actually discourages testing and disclosure because of severe penalties associated with simply knowing one’s status. The new bill will change the law so that it is no longer HIV specific, and converts sentencing into a tiered system instead of the “one size fits all” approach used in 709c. The bill unanimously passed both the Iowa Senate and House chambers with bipartisan support. The new bill also retroactively removes Iowans listed on the sex offender registry from previous convictions under 709c.

The proposed changes to the law are supported by One Iowa, the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization, and by Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network (CHAIN), an organization that has spent the last 5 years working to reform Iowa’s HIV law. Prior to this bill, Iowa had one of the harshest laws in the nation targeting people living with HIV and AIDS.

“Today is a great day for Iowans living with HIV and AIDS,” said Tami Haught, Community Organizer with CHAIN. “For my friends Nick, Leslie, Donald and so many others, this law will be life-changing. No longer will Nick, Leslie or Donald live in fear of persecution just because they have HIV. As a community, we know this is a step in the right direction even as we continue to educate Iowans on the realities of living with HIV. Simply having HIV is not a crime, and it’s time for our laws here in Iowa and across the country to reflect this fact. Hopefully, by beginning to modernize the laws in Iowa, it will signal other states with similar legislation to do the same.

“In addition, we commend the Governor and the many legislators who helped move this bill forward,” Haught added. “Without the bipartisan support of the Iowa legislature, we would not be where we are today. Without a doubt, this has been a joint effort. I am honored to have worked with such amazing people–lawmakers and community members alike–to get this bill passed and to modernize Iowa’s draconian HIV law. Today is a great day, and a victory for Iowans with HIV and AIDS.”

“We are grateful for this historic moment when our Governor signed this bill–a much-needed modernization of our HIV laws that was delivered to him by a unanimous legislature and a committed grassroots effort,” said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa. “However, it’s important to note that there is still work to be done within the community to dispel the stigma, harmful stereotypes and misinformation often associated with HIV. Tami Haught has done extraordinary work giving voice to Iowa’s HIV population and tirelessly working to educate Iowa’s citizens and policy makers. We would not be here without her.”