Introduction

Twitter

  • US: Florida Supreme Court rules HIV disclosure must take place before all “sexual intercourse” #equalcriminalisation https://t.co/vnyVpKi4KQ 17 Mar 2017
  • RT @TheSeroProject: The dehumanizing effect of HIV criminalization https://t.co/0EDcXJMfXW via @APA 11 Mar 2017
  • Why the prevention benefit of treatment and #PrEP mean that #HIV #criminalisation is undermining public health https://t.co/5fCMReBwPH @APA 11 Mar 2017
  • US: @APA’s entire March newsletter explores why #HIV #criminalisation “can no longer be ignored.” https://t.co/5N4dM4qRzX #HIVisnotacrime 11 Mar 2017
  • US: Great article in @Slate including @TheSeroProject's @SeanStrub on growing movement against #HIV #criminalisation https://t.co/SmtPy6pP8P 10 Mar 2017
  • Sweden: Government tasks Public Health Agency with review to include impact of HIV treatment on risk for law courts https://t.co/GWGghlrZR8 10 Mar 2017
  • Canada: Powerful first-person testimony of what it means to survive HIV criminalisation. #hivisnotacrime #HIVCan https://t.co/T2NVKGw2hs 09 Mar 2017
  • Nigeria: On #ZeroDiscrimination Day https://t.co/SzAafPUnbe strongly denounce judicial #HIV stigma in custody case… https://t.co/luR9Ypo8v6 01 Mar 2017
  • Russia: Government considers removal of HIV-specific criminal law, replacing with broader general ‘bodily harm’ law… https://t.co/p3imbBScvU 28 Feb 2017
  • US: Worrying new development as Utah considers law that would classify HIV non-disclosure as rape… https://t.co/zCVjmE1w5X 24 Feb 2017
  • This #valentinesday2017 we #lovepositivewomen who fight #HIVcriminalisation https://t.co/kKvlpqKeTB https://t.co/FAmVTJGzxI 14 Feb 2017
  • Please help raise $20,000 in 20 days to support Michael Johnson's appeal. https://t.co/plDQYQ331e See more here: https://t.co/q0o3lwpi6d 06 Feb 2017
  • Do you work on HIV criminalisation? Please help us identify available services and understand gaps.… https://t.co/A7lk1KBy8m 26 Jan 2017
  • RT @HIVPlusMag: @HIVJusticeNet Michael Johnson's 30 year HIV-stigmatizing conviction overturned. https://t.co/1X1eA67vE4 #HIVisNotaCrime 21 Dec 2016
  • RT @benyoungmd: ICYMI: This excellent video report on #BeyondBlame2016 offering solutions to #HIV criminalization. @HIVJusticeNet https://t… 16 Dec 2016
  • Read the latest HIV Justice Worldwide Newsletter out today! https://t.co/WFs97MfOfQ @_ARASAcomms @AIDSLAW @gnpplus… https://t.co/0SduP7xI8d 15 Dec 2016
  • Correction: Mandatory HIV testing and treatment law proposed for Altai Krai region of Southern Siberia, not Altai R… https://t.co/F1XPwbAjGB 15 Dec 2016
  • Russia: Lawmakers in the Altai Republic unanimously agree to pass a mandatory HIV testing AND treament law… https://t.co/vpnu2iFub1 15 Dec 2016
  • RT @UNAIDS_AP: 10 countries criminalize #HIV transmission or exposure in #AsiaPacific. #Standup4HumanRights on #HumanRightsDay @gnpplus htt… 09 Dec 2016
  • RT @_ARASAcomms: Activists call on leaders to protect human rights & stop criminal sanctions against people living with HIV & TB https://t… 09 Dec 2016

How this resource addresses the criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission

HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, has from its earliest days been associated with controversy.

Why has HIV generated so much more social, political and ethical debate than other potentially life-threatening illnesses?

  • In large part, the sheer scale of the epidemic: every region of the world is affected, and over 33 million people are living with the condition; more than 2 million have died of HIV-related causes.
  • In addition, although effective treatment is now available for many, the virus has proved a major scientific and medical challenge to understand, to disable and to eliminate.
  • Coupled with this, some of the behaviours that transmit HIV are associated with strong social taboos, and some of the populations most affected by the disease (women; men who have sex with men; people who use drugs; sex workers; migrants; and those living in poverty, for example) are already disproportionately marginalised in society.

These factors have shaped the global response to HIV in complex ways, with major debates and decisions being as much about beliefs and values as about scientific evidence. People often have strong feelings about many HIV-related issues. The most constructive way to engage in the challenges posed by the epidemic is not to ignore this reality, but rather to situate it within a larger framework that examines how emotions inform opinions and how factual information and logical reasoning should inform opinions as well.

The purpose of this resource is to put forth such a framework in relation to HIV and the criminal law. The resource examines the key legal, scientific, ethical and social issues raised by the application of criminal law to HIV exposure and transmission. It is intended to serve as a 'primer' and 'filler' for people needing to understand these issues, as well as providing information on the current situation across the globe. It may be particularly useful for:

  • people living with HIV and their advocates
  • policymakers and lawmakers
  • lawyers, judges, jury members and others involved in criminal prosecutions
  • law enforcement officers
  • journalists
  • health and social workers advising people with HIV in health care and other settings.

This book does not seek to bring readers around to a specific outlook on the criminalisation of HIV exposure or transmission. The intricacies of how people develop and act on their beliefs make it unlikely that there will ever be widespread agreement on some of the issues in this realm. Instead, it provides a guide to thinking systematically about the facts and concepts most relevant to HIV-criminalisation laws, cases and debates.

The essential questions in most cases in which criminal charges are brought for alleged HIV exposure or transmission are:

  • Was the defendant responsible for causing a significant or unreasonable risk of harm to the alleged victim(s)?
  • What evidence exists to support or refute the charges?

In the context of HIV, these seemingly straightforward questions encompass numerous other questions that may engender fierce debate. For example:

  • Is it appropriate to legislate against HIV exposure and transmission, and – if so – what sort of laws should these be? What are the risks of legislating for this behaviour and/or of using existing, non-HIV specific laws to prosecute for HIV exposure or transmission?
  • What harm does exposure to HIV or HIV infection cause relative to other forms of harm?
  • Who should take responsibility for preventing HIV transmission/infection? Do HIV-positive people have more of an HIV-prevention duty than HIV-negative people?
  • What constitutes a significant or unreasonable risk of HIV exposure or transmission?
  • How does biological, epidemiological and behavioural evidence support or refute the arguments that are put forth about HIV-related responsibility, risk and harm?
  • What impact do such prosecutions have – on individuals, on their relationships with others (both professional and personal), on public health, and on communities at a wider level?

This resource delves into these and related issues in chapters on laws, harm, responsibility, risk and proof.

In addition, an introductory chapter provides an overview of the issues involved in this topic. It includes an overview of HIV, AIDS, modes of transmission and the legal concepts that have shaped thinking and action in this arena for over two decades. The chapters Impact and Fundamentals discuss, respectively, the impact of criminalising HIV transmission and/or exposure, and alternative legal and policy tools for accomplishing HIV-prevention goals.

And finally, the chapter Details, which provides a summary of the history and current legal situation (accurate at 1 June, 2010) in countries that have chosen to criminalise any element of HIV exposure or transmission, illustrates the global implications of such laws and policies.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.