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Lawmakers target sexually transmitted diseases

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A House panel Monday approved expanding the legal definition of sexual intercourse as part of an effort to prevent the intentional transmission of HIV and other diseases.

A bill (HB 165) sponsored by Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, would change a state law that prohibits people infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases from knowingly exposing partners to the diseases.

It would update the existing term "sexual intercourse" with the broader "sexual conduct," as well as add hepatitis and human papillomavirus to the list of diseases covered in the law.

The term "sexual intercourse" is not statutorily defined, and criminal defendants have challenged the term's meaning, according to a House staff analysis.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the definition is "not limited to only penile-vaginal intercourse," after a Monroe County circuit judge ruled a man convicted under the current law was wrongfully charged since the law does not explicitly cover oral or anal sex between men.

McGhee's bill would define sexual conduct to mean conduct between people capable of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease, regardless of gender.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved McGhee's bill Monday.

A bill carrying related language (SB 628) sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, will be considered Tuesday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.