JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Two months after a public hearing, legislation updating Missouri’s HIV statutes is working its way through the House.
This week, the bill expanding the state’s HIV law to cover all serious infectious or communicable diseases got approval from two House committees — Health and Mental Health Policy on Tuesday and Rules-Legislative Oversight on Thursday.
“We are incredibly pleased that the committee voted to move our public health bill on Communicable Diseases out this week. Right now, Missouri laws are medically inaccurate and stand as a disincentive to know your status if you have HIV, even though with proper treatment, a person’s life expectancy is almost equal to someone without the virus,” Rehder told the Missouri Times.
Missouri’s law currently only covers HIV and those knowingly spreading the virus. The legislation would expand the statute to cover all serious infectious or communicable diseases. A “serious infectious or communicable disease” is defined as being a non-airborne disease spread from person to person that causes long-term consequences in the absence of lifelong treatment and management.
A person taking practical means to prevent transmission — such as condoms and medication used to reduce viral loads — would not be consider to act knowingly, under the bill.
Currently, if a person is aware they are HIV positive, it is a Class A felony to recklessly infect a sexual partner and a Class B felony to recklessly expose a partner. The legislation would reduce transmission of a serious infectious or communicable disease to a Class B felony and exposure to a Class C felony.
“Missouri currently has 13 counties on the CDC’s watch list for possible HIV and Hepatitis C outbreaks,” said Rehder. “Just as President Trump spoke in his State Of The Union address, to eliminate HIV, we must encourage testing and treatment. To work toward this in Missouri, our outdated laws need to be fixed.”
During the committee hearing in early February, one point of concern raised was the fiscal notes on the legislation — Rehder’s with a $220,412 cost increase once fully implemented and McCreery’s with a $190,947 cost increase once fully implemented. The potential cost was greatly reduced in the amended version of the legislation, with a project cost of less than $97,100 once fully implemented.
“It’s been my pleasure to work alongside the Missouri Prosecutors Association and Rep. McCreery to update these laws that negatively affect our public health,” said Rehder.
“Rep. Holly Rehder and I sponsored House Bills HB 167 and 166 in an attempt to modernize Missouri’s outdated and medically inaccurate HIV-specific criminal codes,” McCreery told the Missouri Times. “Although the HCS moving forward is not something I could support, I do value debate and education. I look forward to talking with colleagues about HIV and the public health impact of having antiquated laws on our books.”
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.