On February 8, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two landmark cases on the issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in R v. Mabior and R v. DC. According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the “Court’s decisions in these two appeal cases will have profound implications not only for people living with HIV, but also for Canadian public health, police practice and the criminal justice system.”
The issue of criminal charges for HIV non-disclosure was featured in the NGO Delegation’s 2011 Report on Legal Environments and HIV Responses. The reality of how these laws are applied and the effects this has on those charged were demonstrated in moving interventions by Americans Nick Rhoades and Robert Suttle on the floor of the last UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board meeting.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network describes the situation in Canada:
“Currently Canadian criminal law requires people living with HIV to disclose their status before engaging in behaviour that involves a “significant risk” of transmitting the virus. More than 130 people living with HIV have been charged in less than 15 years — yet, this includes numerous cases, in which their activity posed no significant risk of HIV transmission. This is a miscarriage of justice. Such misuse of the law also contributes to a climate of anxiety, fear, stigma and misinformation that undermines HIV counseling, education and prevention efforts — and puts all Canadians at greater risk. People living with HIV are not criminals in cases where the threshold of significant risk is not met — including cases where condoms are used or an HIV-positive person is being successfully treated with antiretroviral drugs.”
Canadian and international organizations and professionals working on issues related to HIV/AIDS and in the fields of public health and law are invited to endorse the statement below. Send your name, organization (in French translation as well if applicable), title and geographic location by Wednesday 1 February at 17:00EST to [email protected].
Further background documents and legal information can be found on the organization’s Stop Criminalization! page.
We encourage you to also:
- Watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary by Sean Strub, founder of POZ Magazine and Senior Advisor to the Positive Justice Project, entitled “HIV Is Not A Crime”. This eight minute trailer features interviews with Nick Rhoades, Robert Suttle and Monique Howell Moree, who were all prosecuted for failing to disclose their HIV positive status prior to sexual contact.
- Visit the online resources from the Campaign to End Criminalization of HIV.
- Continue to follow on our website the outcomes of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law.
IN ADVANCE OF LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASE, SUPPORTERS WORLDWIDE CALL ON CANADA TO STOP CRIMINALIZING PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV
Monday, February 6, 2012 – Canadian criminal law requires people living with HIV to disclose their status before engaging in behaviour that involves a “significant risk” of transmitting the virus. Yet people have been charged, and convicted for not disclosing their status, even though their activity did not pose a significant risk of HIV transmission. This is a miscarriage of justice. Further, it has contributed to a climate marked by anxiety, fear, stigma and misinformation that undermines HIV counselling, education and prevention efforts. This puts all Canadians at greater risk.
On February 8, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two landmark cases on this important issue. We, the undersigned, respectfully ask that the Court use this opportunity to explicitly reconfirm that people living with HIV are not criminals in cases where the threshold of significant risk is not met – including cases where condoms are used or the HIV positive person was being successfully treated with antiretroviral drugs. We ask that the Court instruct lower courts that significant risk must be determined on the basis of the best availablescientific evidence, not on assumptions, prejudice or fear.
Finally, we call on the provincial and territorial Attorneys General to follow suit and adopt guidelines to limit prosecutions in cases of HIV non-disclosure. These prosecutions are not helpful in putting an end to this epidemic, and the radical over-extension of the criminal law is counter-productive and damaging