Canadian Advocacy Groups: People Who Choose Not to Reveal HIV Status to Partners Are Not Criminals
Mar 06, 2017 09:05 AM EST
Advocacy groups in Canada are pushing to drive changes in the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in the country following a meeting between provinces, such as Ottawa, in the spring. As required by Canadian law, individuals with HIV should reveal their health condition to their partner prior to any sexual activity.
According to Candian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, people who refuse such HIV disclosure will be charged with aggravated sexual assault whether HIV is transmitted or not. Those who are found guilty will be, as the maximum sentence, imprisoned for life; they will also retain a status as a registered sex offender.
According to advocacy groups, criminalizing HIV non-disclosure will only increase doubts and fears among individuals living with HIV. Emilie Smith, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, issued an official statement to the Star.
“This is a really important issue. The federal government has made a commitment to review the way our justice system handles HIV-related cases. And that’s something that we fully support and welcome,” Smith said.
As pointed out by the Supreme Court of Canada, people with HIV do not have to make their condition known to their partners if they use a condom during sexual intercourse and if they are found to have a low number of HIV virus particles in their blood.
On the other hand, advocates have argued that the law does not consider scientific findings saying that, if a person’s viral load is undetectable, there is no risk of HIV transmission at all, even if the individual does not use a condom.
In 2014, over 70 national AIDS physicians and HIV researchers issued an official statement concerning the Supreme Court’s HIV non-disclosure decision. They referred to such law as “a poor appreciation of the science related to HIV contribute(ing) to an overly broad use of the criminal law.”
Last month, a demonstration was carried out outside the ministry’s office as an objection to the “overly broad and unjust” charges relating to HIV disclosure. At present, Ontario has the highest number of people charged with non-disclosure of HIV status. A total of 180 individuals has been charged across Canada.