Under current Indiana law, if someone were unaware they had HIV and tried to donate blood, they could receive a felony charge. But a bill navigating the Indiana General Assembly could change this, protecting donors without bad intentions.

House passes bill decriminalizing blood donors unaware they have HIV

On Tuesday, the House discussed House Bill 1198, which would end criminalization for those who attempt to donate blood while unknowingly having HIV. 

On Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 1198, authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, which would end criminalization for those who attempt to donate blood while unknowingly having HIV. 

McNamara said that in the last 20 years, only 15 people have been charged for attempting to donate blood while HIV positive and that HB 1198 simply seeks to update Indiana law with more current scientific findings. 

In 1988, when the current law was created, physicians still thought HIV could be transmitted by saliva, air and touch. This bill intends to make it clear HIV is sexually transmitted. 

The danger of someone unknowingly spreading HIV is combatted by blood banks testing blood donations. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, blood donations are tested after people donate. If blood samples are found to have diseases such as HIV, hepatitis or HTLV, donors are notified and the donations are not used.

McNamara said she doesn’t want people afraid of being charged for donating while unknowingly having HIV. Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Fort Branch, agreed, complimenting McNamara for her work on the bill and saying he doesn’t want people without bad intent fearing the law. 

Additionally, the bill maintains that if a person aware of their HIV diagnosis participates in sexual activities with another without warning them, they can be charged with a level six felony.

The bill passed the House Chamber with a vote of 77-18. It will now move to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-La Grange.

Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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