BISMARCK — The Republican-led North Dakota House of Representatives widely rejected a bill on Wednesday, Jan. 13, that would have lessened the penalty for knowingly transmitting HIV.

Currently, residents who consciously infect a sexual partner with the virus could face a Class A felony, which comes with up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. House Bill 1106 would have made the offense an infraction, which carries a fine up to $1,000 and no jail time.

The bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, D-Fargo, said the penalty for knowingly transmitting HIV is unfairly harsh and doesn't align with the infractions North Dakotans face if they willfully infect someone with any other sexually transmitted disease, such as hepatitis or syphilis.

All but one Republican on the House Judiciary Committee voted to give the bill a "Do Not Pass" recommendation on Tuesday, Jan. 12, because they believed an infraction for transmitting HIV was not a harsh enough punishment.

Only three people have been convicted with a felony under the current law.

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There were an estimated 468 North Dakota residents with HIV in 2019, but 80% are virally suppressed, meaning they are very unlikely to transmit the virus, according to the state Department of Health.