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Decriminalizing diagnosis | Fulton County Board of Health observes 'HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day'

In Atlanta, statistics show the risk of diagnosis is 1 in every 51 people.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Atlanta has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the nation, and the Fulton County Board of Health is working to reduce the stigma and get people the care that they need.

The board is observing HIV Is Not A Crime Awareness Day on Tuesday, Feb. 28, for the second year. The day was first observed by healthcare organizations in 2022 to work to lessen the stigma around an HIV-positive diagnosis and help limit the spread of infections. 

It works to decriminalize the diagnosis, a step Georgia has already taken. 

This year's commemoration comes as Georgia lawmakers have enacted changes to state law to also fight the stigma. Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 164 into law last May, requiring new medical evidence regarding current means of HIV transmission, according to the county board of health.

In Atlanta, statistics show the risk of diagnosis is 1 in every 51 people.

People living with HIV can face felony charges if they know their status, fail to disclose it, aim to spread HIV and then engage in sexual behavior that poses a risk of transmission. Under Georgia's recently enacted law, prosecutors must prove that a person with HIV intended and knowingly infected others. It also reduced the felony charge penalties from 10 years to five.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services believes that laws on the books in more than 30 U.S. states allow for using a person’s positive HIV status in criminal prosecution or increasing charges or punishments because the person has HIV.

To learn more about the resources available for those who are HIV-positive, visit hiv.gov


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