(WOMENSENEWS)–New York Assemblyman Stephen B. Kaufman (D-Bronx) will introduce a bill creating a new class of felony called “aggravated reckless endangerment” in cases in which a person knowingly exposed another to HIV. Not transmission, exposure. Under certain circumstances, it would allow for charges of assault or second-degree murder.

“This opens the door for the prosecution of HIV-positive women who become pregnant. This is not unlike the prosecution we’ve seen of women substance abusers who give birth,” said Cyra Borsy, project coordinator of the Northern Manhattan Women and Children HIV Project. “And what about the parent who hasn’t disclosed the status of the child? In such a case, could both the parent and child be prosecuted?”

Kaufman has been sponsoring this bill since 1998 and it has never gotten out of committee. With the recent arrest of an HIV-positive man from the Bronx, charged with sexual abuse and sodomy with four teen boys, the assemblyman believes that support might now be forthcoming.

“We feel that the existing criminal statutes are completely adequate to address the problem of someone intentionally infecting someone with HIV. These types of bills give the public a false sense of security,” said Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

“Men who have sex with men and dirty needles shared among intravenous drug users are the overwhelming means of transmission of HIV–not sexual attack, which accounts for a barely measurable proportion of cases. In the case of women contracting HIV, it’s usually from an HIV-positive man who is either bisexual or an intravenous drug user.”

Cyra Borsy agreed: “In the Latino community, the reluctance of men to use condoms and women to demand condom use is an enormous issue.”

“These bills can deter people from getting tested. And that’s where the threat of HIV is for women: not knowing,” added Johnson.