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Nevada Removes Penalties for HIV Positive Sex Workers

Nevada has finally issued long-overdue updates to HIV laws, and these changes will firmly establish the Silver State as the only place in the U.S. where sex work is legal and regulated. Here’s what you should know.

What Is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. While HIV can be transmitted through blood, it most often is communicable through sex, and having another STD can make you more susceptible to HIV. When left untreated, HIV-positive patients can develop AIDS, a more severe terminal disease that is debilitating and often fatal.

HIV has been around for decades, but in the United States, HIV had its day primarily in the 1980s. During this terrifying time, hundreds of thousands of people died tragically of AIDS – many of them were part of the LGBTQA+ community.

Activists, HIV+ people, and other members of the LGBTQA+ community called for government intervention to little avail as their friends, family, and loved ones suffered. Because of this incredibly traumatic time in U.S. history, some lawmakers sought a solution. Their idea? Target sex workers and criminalize HIV to stop the spread.

Until recently, Nevada was one of the places where sex workers could face a felony charge and ten years in prison for simply being HIV positive. Thanks to Gov. Sisolak, that’s about to change.

A New Day

Since Gov. Sisolak signed SB 275 into law in early June, Nevada is now the only state with legal, regulated sex work. The bill, along with similar legislation, will allow sex workers to live and work in peace without fear of felony charges and time behind bars. Additionally, the law will give people better access to preventative treatments like PrEP and PEP.

Since 1995, 64% of all HIV-related convictions were related to laws targeting sex workers, especially people of color. These laws were a part of a strict set of legislation that put limits and restrictions on sex workers and their freedom, but activists are hopeful that this important step will trigger a ripple effect across the nation.

Not only will the law allow sex workers to have access to testing and treatment, but it also opens the door to more casual conversation about HIV and how the state’s previous tactics were less than successful in stopping the spread.

Since they arrived in the U.S., HIV and AIDS have struck terror into the public, and the demonization of those who test positive has done more harm than good. To most people, AIDS is one of the worst diseases imaginable, along with cancer, and it targets the gay community, but AIDS is indiscriminate of sexuality entirely.

Gov. Sisolak’s decision to change things in Nevada could help activists dismantle the decades of misinformation and demonization of their communities with the law on their side.

What Happens Now

In his announcement to the public, Gov. Sisolak says,

I am so grateful to sign legislation to ensure that our LGBTA+ community feels safe, protected […] We know that laws that criminalize people living with HIV don’t stop the spread, but they actually hurt our public health efforts.”

Those who faced felony charges before can now live freely and peacefully, but what happens to those charged before? The answer to this question is unclear, but having legal protection through state legislation is a critical first step toward changing things for the better.

Fight for Your Future Today

If you or a loved one has been accused of an HIV-related crime, contact an attorney immediately. You deserve a strong defense, and The Draskovich Law Group can help. Our legal team has over a century of experience defending clients in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas, and we are honored to serve victims of unfair and prejudicial sex crime laws.

Contact our firm for more information.