Global: HIV and the criminal law book now available; hear me speak in Ottawa and Toronto

The next few weeks sees my involvement in a flurry of anti-criminalisation advocacy in the United States and Canada, coinciding with the publication of the book version of the new international resource I produced for NAM and an article in HIV Treatment Update summarising the current global situation.

HIV and the Criminal Law

Email: to order a copy

Preface by The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG and Edwin Cameron, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. 

Introduction How this resource addresses the criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission.

Fundamentals An overview of the global HIV pandemic, and the role of human rights and the law in the international response to HIV.

Laws A  history of the criminalisation of HIV exposure and transmission, and a brief explanation of the kinds of laws used to do this.

Harm Considers the actual and perceived impact of HIV on wellbeing, how these inform legislation and the legal construction of HIV-related harm.

Responsibility Looks at two areas of responsiblity for HIV prevention: responsibility for HIV-related sexual risk-taking and responsibility to disclose a known HIV-positive status to a sexual partner.

Risk An examination of prosecuted behaviours, using scientific evidence to determine actual risk, and how this evidence has been applied in jurisdictions worldwide.

Proof Foreseeability, intent, causality and consent are key elements in establishing criminal culpability. The challenges and practice in proving these in HIV exposure and transmission cases.

Impact An assessment of the impact of criminalisation and HIV – on individuals, communities, countries and the course of the global HIV epidemic.

Details: international resource and individual country data A summary of laws, prosecutions and responses to criminalisation of HIV exposure or transmission internationally, and key sources of more information. 

HIV Treatment Update

The August/September issue of NAM’s newsletter, HIV Treatment Update, features a 2500 word article, ‘Where HIV is a Crime, Not Just a Virus’, that examines the current state of criminalisation internationally.

Here’s the first part: click on the image to download the complete article.

Since 1987, when prosecutions in Germany, Sweden and the United States were first recorded, an increasing number of countries around the world have applied existing criminal statutes or created HIV-specific criminal laws to prosecute people living with HIV who have, or are believed to have, put others at risk of acquiring HIV.

Most of the prosecutions have been for consensual sexual acts, with a minority for behaviour such as biting and spitting.

In the majority of these cases, HIV transmission did not occur; rather, someone was exposed to the risk of acquiring HIV without expressly being informed by the person living with HIV that there was a risk of HIV exposure.

In the cases where someone did test positive for HIV, proof that the defendant intended to harm them and/or was the source of the infection has often been less than satisfactory.

South Africa’s openly HIV-positive Constitutional Court Justice, Edwin Cameron, called for a global campaign against criminalisation at the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in 2008, declaring: “HIV is a virus, not a crime.”

Two years later, the discussion for people working in the HIV sector has moved on from a debate about whether such laws and prosecutions are good or bad public policy to one on how to turn the tide and mitigate the harm of criminalisation. Most of them advocate, in the long term, for decriminalisation of all acts other than clearly intentional HIV transmission. This, however, is a debate that many people outside the HIV sector have yet to even start.

The Positive Justice Project

Next Tuesday, September 21st, I’ll be joining a group of US anti-criminalisation advocates for a meeting in New York to discuss how to move towards mitigating the harm of US disclosure laws and prosecutions for HIV exposure and non-intentional transmission.

The goals of the Positive Justice Project campaign include:

  • Broader public understanding of the stigmatizing impact and other negative public health consequences of criminalization and other forms of discrimination against people with HIV that occur under the guise of addressing HIV transmission.
  • Community consensus on the appropriate use of criminal and civil law in the context of the HIV epidemic.
  • Clear statements from lead government officials on the causes and relative risks of HIV transmission and the dangers of a criminal enforcement response to HIV exposure and the epidemic.
  • A broader, more effective community-level response to the ongoing problem of HIV-related arrests and prosecutions.
  • Reduction and eventual elimination of the inappropriate use of criminal and civil punishments against people with HIV.

Ottawa: September 29th 6pm-8pm

Click on the flyer to download

I’ll be in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, on Wednesday September 29th to speak about my experiences of blogging on criminalisation worldwide, and to provide examples of international anti-criminalisation advocacy that Canadian advocates might find useful in their fight against the ramping up of charges for non-disclosure and the irrational and scare-mongering response to accusations of non-disclosure from law enforcement.

Ottawa has become ground zero for anti-criminalisation advocacy in recent months following the arrest and public naming and shaming of a gay man for non-disclosure. Following community outrage at the man’s treatment, the Ottawa Police Service Board rejected calls to develop guidelines for prosecution for HIV non-disclosure cases.

The meeting will also feature several leading lights in Canadian, if not global, anti-criminalisation advocacy: Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; HIV-positive advocate David Hoe; and Eric Mykhalovskiy, Associate Professor at York University, Department of Sociology.

Toronto: September 30th 6.30pm-8.30pm

Click on image for link to Facebook event page

The following day, Richard, Eric, myself and a fourth panellist (TBC) will be presenting at Silence, Sex and Science, Thursday, September 30, 2010, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Oakham House, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

I hope to meet any blog readers who can make it to either of the Canadian meetings, and will, of course, be posting more about these meetings in the future.