Canada: Social media campaign ‘Think Twice’ uses video to ask gay men to reconsider pressing charges for HIV non-disclosure

Last week saw the launch of a new phase of a targeted social marketing campaign by AIDS ACTION NOW! (AAN) that features 42 short videos from members and allies of Toronto’s LGBTQI community.

‘Think Twice’ asks HIV-negative and untested gay, bi, queer and trans men to reconsider pressing charges for HIV non-disclosure (where there was no alleged HIV transmission) when they discover that a sexual partner has not disclosed their HIV-positive status before sex.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that non-disclosure of known HIV status can be charged as aggravated sexual assault – with up to life imprisonment and sex offender registration – even if the person with HIV uses a condom: in order to avoid legal liability, they must also have a low viral load.

‘Think Twice’ is an AAN campaign originally launched just prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling aimed at decreasing the number of criminal prosecutions related to HIV non-disclosure. AAN want people involved in the criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure—people living with HIV, their sexual partners, police, Crown prosecutors, health care providers and others—to consider the complexity and uncertainty of Canada’s overly broad approach to HIV criminalisation, and the implications of their role in criminal prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure.

The first part of their campaign targeted Crown prosecutors since they play a pivotal role in driving criminal prosecutions.

Since December 2012, the ‘Think Twice’ campaign has also focused on another key advocacy target – potential complainants.

This new phase of the ‘Think Twice’ campaign focuses specifically on gay, queer, and trans men and other men who have sex with men, due a change in community norms in the past few years that has resulted in an increase in the numbers of men going to the police to lay charges against other men living with HIV.

According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, while the majority of cases in Canada are against men who had sex with women, an increasing number of gay men and other men who have sex with men are being charged and prosecuted in Canada. Whereas there were only five known cases prior to 2006, a further 25 cases have been tracked up to December 2013.

In 2014, there has been at least one new case against a gay man. Another – where two men met in a Montreal sauna – dating back to 2005, is due to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada next month.

For this latest phase of the ‘Think Twice’ campaign, AAN placed an open call for gay, queer, bi and trans men, and their allies, to make a video that answered the question: ‘In 45 seconds what would you say to gay men to convince them to think twice before going to the police when a sex partner hasn’t disclosed to them.’

Although they only expected to make 25, a total of 42 individuals made videos, in a project organised by Jordan Bond-Gorr, Lauryn Kronick, Tim McCaskell and Eric Mykhalovskiy and filmed by multi-disciplinary artist, John Caffery, in Toronto over one weekend in August.

The videos – along with the website – were launched on 18th November at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times theatre.

This compilation of 18 of the videos, produced by the HIV Justice Network, highlights the breadth of messages and the range of stakeholders involved.

It features (in order of appearance):

Tim McCaskell

Michael Erickson

Cecile Kazatchkine

Nik Redman

Alan Li

JP Kane

Ryan Peck

Eric Mykhalovskiy

David Udayasekaran

John Caffery

Nedal Sulaiman

Ayden Scheim

Chy Ryan Spain

Richard Fung

Max Mohenu

Rodney Rousseau

Twysted Monroe

and John Greyson.

For more information about this campaign, visit the ‘Think Twice’ FAQ page.