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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

False Headline on HIV Blood Donation

Q: Will California allow HIV-positive people to donate blood?

A: No. The Legislature has passed a bill that would reduce the penalties for those, including blood donors, who knowingly expose others to the HIV virus.


“CA Governor to sign bill that allows HIV infected people to give blood.” I just received this in an email. I do not want to send it to my friends without a fact check.


A headline claiming that California is preparing to allow HIV-positive people to donate blood is making the rounds online, but it misrepresents the aim of a bill in the state Legislature.

Articles that appeared on yournewswire.com and puppetstringnews.com on Sept. 13 trumpet the idea that HIV-positive blood could start flowing through donated supplies. The story was flagged as potentially fabricated news on Facebook. It’s not made-up, but it is false.

“The bill, SB 239, will reduce the penalty for knowingly exposing someone to HIV without telling them, allowing HIV positive people to donate their blood to others,” according to the article on yournewswire.com.

It’s true that the bill would reduce the penalties for knowingly infecting another person with HIV from a felony conviction to a misdemeanor. But it does not allow HIV-positive people to donate blood.

Rather than facing two to six years in jail for the offense, those found guilty under the proposed bill would face up to six months in jail, which is the same penalty for knowingly exposing people to other communicable diseases.

Also, the provision in state law that requires facilities to screen donated blood for HIV and other communicable diseases would remain in effect.

As of 2014, California was one of 19 states that have laws on the books criminalizing the donation of HIV-positive blood, tissue or fluid, according to a March 2014 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice.

Many of those laws were passed during the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, according to the report. This proposed change to California’s law — SB 239 — is an effort to bring the statute in line with current attitudes and treatment, which has advanced since the law was originally passed, according to the bill’s sponsor in the state Senate, Scott Wiener.

“These felonies, which treat HIV differently than all other serious communicable diseases, stigmatize people living with HIV and discourage people from getting tested and into treatment,” Wiener, a Democrat, said in a statement issued in May.

The California Senate passed the bill by a vote of 26-12 on May 31. The California State Assembly approved it 52-19 on Sept. 7.

It was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 15. He has not indicated whether he will sign the measure.

Update, Oct. 10: Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Oct. 6.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.


Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “California Governor Jerry Brown To Allow HIV Positive People To Donate Blood.” Yournewswire.com. 19 Sep 2017.

California Legislative Information. Text of Senate Bill 239. Legislature.ca.gov. Accessed 19 Sep 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice. “Prevalence and Public Health Implications of State Laws that Criminalize Potential HIV Exposure in the United States.” Springer.com. Accessed 19 Sep 2017.

Wiener, Scott. Statement on passage of SB 239 in the Senate. Senate.ca.gov. Accessed 20 Sep 2017.

Vote count. Legislature.ca.gov. Accessed 19 Sep 2017.