Tajikistan: The discrimination and legal difficulties of women living with HIV

Infecting your wife and then accusing her: The Tajik HIV-positive women confronting social exclusion

Translated from via Deepl.com. For the article in French and the Original article in Russian, please scroll down.

In Tajikistan, women living with HIV are denied help by their families. Many of them live in very precarious conditions, have no medical support and cannot find work.

HIV-positive women are one of the most discriminated against groups in Tajikistan. They are shunned by society as a whole, including their immediate families. Excluded, they can no longer work or have access to appropriate medical assistance. And yet, most of the time, these women pose no risk to the health of those around them.

To mark the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” event and the International Day against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Asia-Plus takes a look at the discrimination faced by these women.

A number of laws and documents exist in Tajikistan to directly or indirectly prevent discrimination against people living with HIV, as set out in an article by the NGO Foreign Policy Centre. In 2023, this list was supplemented by a new law on equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination. According to human rights activists, it introduces the concept of “indirect discrimination”, which vulnerable groups often face. However, HIV-positive women are not entirely reassured by this new legal reference, as they already face direct discrimination on a daily basis.

Discrimination extending from the family to the medical community

“Despite the fact that HIV is not transmitted in everyday life and that antiretroviral (ARV) treatment (a treatment that slows down the development of the virus and the disease, editor’s note) reduces the viral load to a minimum, HIV-positive women are discriminated against at every street corner. And above all within their families”, explains Tahmina Khaïdarova, Tajikistan spokesperson for the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network.

“As soon as her diagnosis is known, her family restricts contact with her and avoids her. This attitude then follows her wherever her situation becomes known.

Also read about Novastan: HIV positive and unemployed

Strange as it may seem, HIV-positive women often report discrimination from healthcare workers. These include dentists, surgeons, midwives and gynaecologists. Some doctors refuse to help women with HIV, and they have to find friendlier doctors through acquaintances.

“Yet modern medicine has eliminated all risk. Today, HIV is a chronic disease like diabetes. With the right ARV treatment and medical follow-up, HIV-positive women can become mothers of healthy children, but even some health workers don’t have this information,” explains Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Discrimination trivialised in the media
Local journalists also discriminate against women with HIV. The content devoted to this subject often takes a pejorative angle. The media confirm stereotypes, stigmatisation and prejudice, without explaining to the public what HIV is today.

“Even today, local journalists still use phrases like ‘AIDS: the plague of the 21st century’, ‘the terror of HIV‘ and other statements that have nothing to do with reality”, says Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Journalists often use intimidating language to talk about criminal cases (article 125 of the Tajik penal code, editor’s note) brought against women with HIV who are accused of knowingly infecting their husbands.

Discrimination, a source of violence against women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Tajikistan has been a signatory for 30 years, states that gender inequality and discrimination are the primary reasons for violence against women.

In fact, any serodiscordant couple (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not, editor’s note) can fall foul of the first part of article 125 of the Tajik criminal code. This states: “knowingly placing another person at risk of HIV contamination”. It therefore refers not to factual contamination, but to the risk of infection. And all HIV-positive people who have a sexual partner are de facto exposing them to the risk of infection.

“But in reality, things don’t work like that. If a person is on ARV treatment, their viral load is reduced and even if they have unprotected sex, their partner will not catch HIV”, explains Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Women with HIV more discriminated against than men

The spokeswoman tells us that at the twelfth International Conference on HIV Research, held in Brisbane from 23 to 26 July, the World Health Organisation presented new scientific and methodological recommendations relating to HIV. Among them is the indication of the viral load thresholds required for HIV infection.

This means that HIV-positive people who achieve a viral load level below this threshold by adhering to ARV treatment will not transmit HIV to their sexual partners. They have only a low risk of transmitting the virus vertically to their children.

“Many of the criminal cases that have resounded in Tajikistan have been launched on the basis of the first part of Article 125. But in reality, none of the ‘victims’ have been infected with HIV”, reveals Tahmina Khaïdarova. According to her, although men with HIV are also discriminated against, women are discriminated against to a greater extent.

Legal difficulties

The fact is that society still considers that a woman with HIV has had many sexual partners. However, according to statistics, sex workers represent only 1.7% of HIV-positive women in Tajikistan in 2022. All the others are women leading ordinary lives, sometimes housewives, who contracted the virus from their husbands.

“Not long ago, we were contacted by an HIV-positive woman. She was married, had a child, and her husband beat her. He even beat her during her pregnancy, so that she lost her second child”, says Tahmina Khaïdarova. “Although it was her husband who gave her HIV, her family blamed her.

“She left with her child, rented a room and found a job. But her ex-husband has got the child back and is threatening to deprive her of her rights over him because she is HIV-positive, uneducated and on a modest salary on which she can’t look after her child.”

The courts also discriminate against women, even those without HIV. That’s why there’s no guarantee that if her husband does try to deprive her of her child, the judge will see the absurdity and injustice of the situation.

Translated from the Russian by Paulinon Vanackère and edited by Coraline Grondin

Contaminer son épouse puis l’accuser : ces femmes tadjikes séropositives face aux discriminations sociales

Au Tadjikistan, les femmes atteintes du VIH se voient refuser l’aide de leur famille. En grande précarité, beaucoup ne bénéficient pas d’accompagnement médical et ne trouvent pas de travail.

Les femmes séropositives sont un des groupes les plus discriminés au Tadjikistan. La société entière se détourne d’elles, y compris leur famille proche. Exclues, elles ne peuvent plus travailler ni avoir accès à une aide médicale adaptée. Pourtant, la plupart du temps, ces femmes ne représentent aucun risque pour la santé de leur entourage.

A l’occasion de l’événement « 16 jours d’action contre les violences de genre » et de la journée internationale de lutte contre le VIH (virus de l’immunodéficience humaine), Asia-Plus se penche sur les discriminations que ces femmes rencontrent.

Diverses lois et documents existent au Tadjikistan pour empêcher directement ou indirectement la discrimination des personnes atteintes du VIH, rassemblées dans un article de l’ONG Foreign Policy Centre. En 2023, cette liste a été complétée d’une nouvelle loi sur l’égalité et l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination. Selon les défenseurs des droits humains, elle fait apparaître le concept de « discriminations indirectes » auxquelles les groupes vulnérables sont souvent confrontés. Cependant, les femmes séropositives ne sont pas pleinement rassurées par cette nouvelle mention légale car elles font déjà face à des discriminations directes au quotidien.

Des discriminations s’étendant de la famille à la communauté médicale

« Malgré le fait que le VIH ne se transmet pas dans la vie quotidienne et que le traitement antirétroviral (ARV) (un traitement qui ralentit le développement du virus et la maladie, ndlr) atténue au minimum la charge virale, les femmes séropositives sont discriminées à chaque coin de rue. Et avant tout dans leur famille », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova, porte-parole pour le Tadjikistan du Réseau des femmes eurasiennes sur le SIDA.

« A peine son diagnostic est-il connu que sa famille restreint ses contacts avec elle et l’évite. Puis, cette attitude la suivra partout où sa situation est connue. »

Aussi étrange que cela puisse paraître, les femmes séropositives rapportent souvent des discriminations de la part des travailleurs de la santé. Parmi eux, dentistes, chirurgiens, sages-femmes ou gynécologues. Des médecins refusent de porter assistance aux femmes atteintes du VIH et elles doivent trouver des docteurs plus amicaux en passant par des connaissances.

« Pourtant, la médecine moderne a fait disparaître tout risque. Aujourd’hui, le VIH est une maladie chronique comme le diabète. Avec un traitement ARV adéquat et un suivi médical, les femmes séropositives deviennent mères d’enfants en bonne santé, mais même certains travailleurs de la santé n’ont pas ces informations », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Les discriminations banalisées dans les médias

Les journalistes locaux discriminent également les femmes atteintes du VIH. Les contenus consacrés à ce thème prennent souvent un angle péjoratif. Les médias confirment des stéréotypes, des stigmatisations et des préjugés, sans expliquer au public ce que représente aujourd’hui le VIH.

« Encore aujourd’hui, on rencontre chez les journalistes locaux des formulations comme « le sida : la peste du XXIème siècle », « la terreur du VIH » et autres affirmations qui n’ont rien à voir avec la réalité », raconte Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Souvent, les journalistes utilisent des formules intimidantes pour parler de cas d’affaires pénales (article 125 du code pénal tadjik, ndlr) ouvertes contres des femmes atteintes du VIH et accusées d’avoir consciemment contaminé leur mari.

Les discriminations, sources de violences faites aux femmes

La Convention sur l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard des femmes, dont le Tadjikistan est signataire depuis 30 ans, affirme que l’inégalité et la discrimination de genre sont les raisons premières des violences faites aux femmes.

En fait, tout couple sérodiscordant (dont un des partenaires est séropositif et l’autre non, ndlr) peut tomber sous le coup de la première partie de l’article 125 du code pénal tadjik. Celle-ci indique : « placer consciemment une autre personne en position de risque de contamination au VIH. » Ainsi, elle fait référence non pas à la contamination factuelle, mais au risque d’infection. Et tous les séropositifs qui ont un partenaire sexuel le placent de fait face au risque d’être contaminé.

« Mais en réalité, les choses ne fonctionnent pas ainsi. Si une personne est sous traitement ARV, la charge virale est diminuée et même en cas de relation sexuelle non protégée, son partenaire n’attrapera pas le VIH », explique Tahmina Khaïdarova.

Les femmes atteintes de VIH plus discriminées que les hommes

La porte-parole raconte qu’à la douzième conférence internationale pour la recherche contre le VIH, qui a eu lieu du 23 au 26 juillet dernier à Brisbane, l’Organisation mondiale de la santé a présenté de nouvelles recommandations scientifiques et méthodiques en relation avec le VIH. Parmi elles, l’indication des seuils de charge virale nécessaires à la contamination par le VIH.

Ainsi, les personnes séropositives qui atteignent un niveau de charge virale inférieur à ce seuil grâce à l’observance du traitement ARV ne transmettent pas le VIH à leurs partenaires sexuels. Elles n’ont qu’un risque faible de transmettre verticalement le virus à leurs enfants.

De nombreuses affaires pénales qui ont résonné au Tadjikistan ont été lancées en s’appuyant sur la première partie de l’article 125. Mais en réalité, aucune des « victimes » n’a été contaminée par le VIH », révèle Tahmina Khaïdarova. Selon elle, bien que les hommes atteints de VIH soient aussi soumis à la discrimination, les femmes le sont davantage.

Des difficultés face à la justice

Le fait est que la société considère toujours qu’une femme atteinte du VIH a eu beaucoup de partenaires sexuels. Cependant, selon les statistiques, les travailleuses du sexe représentent seulement 1,7 % des femmes séropositives au Tadjikistan en 2022. Toutes les autres sont des femmes menant une vie ordinaire, parfois femmes au foyer, qui ont contracté le virus par leur mari.

« Il y a peu, nous avons été contactées par une femme séropositive. Elle était mariée, a eu un enfant, et son mari la battait. Il l’a battue même pendant sa grossesse, si bien qu’elle a perdu son deuxième enfant », raconte Tahmina Khaïdarova. « Bien que ce soit son mari qui lui a donné le VIH, sa famille l’a accusée, elle. »

« Elle est partie avec son enfant, loue une chambre et a trouvé un travail. Mais son ex-mari a récupéré l’enfant et la menace de la priver de ses droits sur lui parce qu’elle est séropositive, sans éducation et avec un salaire modeste avec lequel elle ne peut pas s’occuper de son enfant. »

Les tribunaux aussi discriminent les femmes, mêmes non atteintes du VIH. C’est pourquoi rien ne garantit que si son mari tente effectivement de la priver de son enfant, le juge s’aperçoive de l’absurdité et de l’injustice de la situation.

La rédaction d’Asia-Plus
Traduit du russe par Paulinon Vanackère

Сам заразил, но жену обвинил. Женщины с ВИЧ подвергаются в Таджикистане дискриминации

Женщинам с диагнозом ВИЧ в Таджикистане отказывают в поддержке не только родственники, но помощь могут не оказать даже врачи.

Женщины с ВИЧ – одна из самых дискриминируемых групп в Таджикистане. От них отворачивается всё общество, включая самых близких родственников; они не могут найти работу или получить медицинское обслуживание. При этом чаще всего никаких рисков здоровью окружающих эти женщины не несут.

В честь международной акции «16 дней активных действий против гендерного насилия» и Всемирного дня борьбы против СПИДа «Азия-Плюс» рассказывает о дискриминации, с которой они сталкиваются.

В Таджикистане существует целый список самых разных законов и документов, которые прямо или косвенно защищают людей, живущих с ВИЧ от дискриминации.

В прошлом году этот список пополнился еще одним законом «О равенстве и ликвидации всех форм дискриминации». В нем, к удовлетворению правозащитников, появилось понятие «косвенной дискриминации», с которой чаще всего сталкиваются уязвимые группы в Таджикистане. Однако женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, это важное описание в законе, не успокаивает, потому что именно эта группа населения каждый день сталкивается с прямой дискриминацией.

«Несмотря на то, что ВИЧ не передается бытовым путем, а современная АВР-терапия (терапия, которая замедляет развитие вируса и заболевание, – ред.) до минимума снижает вирусную нагрузку, дискриминации женщина с ВИЧ подвергается на каждом шагу, – говорит Тахмина Хайдарова, руководительница Сети женщин, живущих с ВИЧ. – Прежде всего, внутри семьи.

Как только выясняется, что у нее положительный статус, родственники сокращают с ней контакты, избегают ее. Со временем такое отношение будет сопровождать ее везде, где узнают о ее статусе».

Как это ни странно, отмечает Тахмина, женщины, живущие с ВИЧ, часто жалуются на проявление дискриминации со стороны медицинских работников: стоматологов, хирургов, акушеров, гинекологов. Доктора отказываются оказывать помощь женщинам с ВИЧ и им приходится искать дружественных специалистов через знакомых.

«При этом современная медицина сняла все риски: ВИЧ сегодня это такое же хроническое заболевание, как сахарный диабет. При адекватной АВР-терапии и врачебном уходе, женщины с ВИЧ становятся матерями здоровых детей, но даже у медицинских работников нет актуальной информации на этот счет, – поясняет Тахмина Хайдарова.

Дискриминируют женщин с ВИЧ и местные журналисты. В контенте, посвященном женщинам с ВИЧ, часто присутствуют уничижительные обороты, медиа транслируют стереотипы, стигму и предрассудки, и не объясняют аудитории о том, что собой сегодня представляет ВИЧ.

«До сих пор в материалах местных журналистов встречаются такие обороты, как “ВИЧ/СПИД – чума 21 века”, “ВИЧ-террор” и прочие утверждения, не имеющие ничего общего с реальностью», – говорит Хайдарова.

Часто журналисты используют устрашающие обороты при освещении случаев возбуждения уголовных статей (125 ст. УК РТ, – ред.) в отношении женщин с ВИЧ, которые якобы осознанно заражают мужчин.

В Конвенции о ликвидации всех форм дискриминации в отношении женщин (КЛДЖ), подписанной Таджикистаном 30 лет тому назад, говорится, что гендерное неравенство и дискриминация являются первопричинами насилия в отношении женщин.

«По сути, под первую часть 125 статьи УК Таджикистана могут попасть и все дискордантные пары (в которых один партнер с положительным статусом ВИЧ, другой – с отрицательным, – ред.). В этой части прописано: “Заведомое поставление другого лица в опасность заражения ВИЧ‐инфекцией”, то есть это не фактическое заражение, а риск заражения. И все люди с положительным ВИЧ-статусом, у которых есть половой партнер, фактически, ставят его под угрозу риска заражения.

Но по факту это не так: если человек принимает АРВ-терапию, его вирусная нагрузка снижена, и даже в случае незащищенного секса, его партнер не заразится ВИЧ», – говорит руководительница Сети женщин, живущих с ВИЧ.

Женщинам с ВИЧ достается больше

Она рассказывает, что на двенадцатой международной конференции по научным исследованиям ВИЧ, которая проходила 23–26 июля в австралийском городе Брисбен, Всемирная организация здравоохранения представила новые научные и методические рекомендации в отношении ВИЧ.

В них были приведены ключевые пороговые значения вирусной нагрузки при ВИЧ.

Так, ВИЧ-положительные лица, у которых благодаря соблюдению режима антиретровирусной терапии достигнут неопределяемый уровень вирусной нагрузки, не передают ВИЧ своим сексуальным партнерам и подвергаются низкому риску «вертикальной» передачи вируса своим детям.

«Многие громкие уголовные дела в Таджикистане были возбуждены именно по первой части статьи 125 УК. Но на деле никто из “пострадавших” не заразился ВИЧ», – объясняет Тахмина Хайдарова.

По ее словам, несмотря на то, что мужчины с положительным статусом ВИЧ также подвергаются дискриминации, женщинам достается больше.

Дело в том, что до сих пор общество считает, что женщина с ВИЧ – это женщина, у которой было много сексуальных партнеров. Тогда как по статистике секс-работниц среди женщин с ВИЧ в Таджикистане на конец 2022 года всего 1,7 %. Все остальные – это, как правило, обычные женщины-домохозяйки, которые заразились от своих мужей.

«К нам недавно обратилась женщина, живущая с ВИЧ: она была замужем, родила ребенка, муж ее ужасно избивал. Избивал даже во время беременности так, что она потеряла второго ребенка, – рассказывает Тахмина. – Несмотря на то, что именно муж заразил ее ВИЧ, его семья во всем обвиняла саму женщину.

Она ушла от него с ребенком, сняла комнату, устроилась на работу. Но бывший муж забрал ребенка и теперь угрожает лишить ее родительских прав, потому что у нее положительный статус ВИЧ, нет образования и маленькая зарплата, на которую она не может содержать ребенка».

Учитывая тот факт, что таджикские женщины даже без ВИЧ подвергаются дискриминации в судебных органах, нет никакой гарантии, что в случае, если мужчина, о котором рассказывает Тахмина, действительно попытается лишить свою бывшую жену родительских прав, в суде увидят всю абсурдность и несправедливость ситуации.

Подробнее: https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20231201/sam-zarazil-no-zhenu-obvinil-zhentshini-s-vich-podvergayutsya-v-tadzhikistane-diskriminatsii

New report shows how women living with HIV are leading the response against HIV criminalisation in the EECA region

A new report produced by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS with the Global Network of People Living with HIV on behalf of HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE, illustrates how women living with HIV, who are disproportionally impacted by HIV criminalisation across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region, have also been the leaders in research, advocacy and activism against it. The report is now available in English after being originally published in Russian in January.

The report illustrates how HIV criminalisation and gender inequality are intimately and inextricably linked. By highlighting prosecution data from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine disaggregated by sex, the report shows how the burden of HIV criminalisation is falling upon women.

The report also includes some heart-breaking personal stories including that of a woman in Russia who was prosecuted for breastfeeding her baby, as well as several women in Russia blackmailed by former partners who threatened to report them for alleged HIV exposure as a way to control, coerce, or abuse them.

The evidence provided in the report clearly demonstrates that HIV criminalisation not only fails to protect women from HIV, but worsens their status in society, making them even more susceptible to violence and structural inequalities due to the way their HIV-positive status is framed by the criminal law.

The report goes on to explore how women living with HIV in the region are vulnerable to a range of economic consequences including loss of property, as well as ostracism and discrimination in their communities, including being separated from their children, because:

  • Women living with HIV’s reproductive and maternal choices are controlled by, and can be abused by, the state.
  • Women living with HIV in partnerships with HIV-negative men can be threatened with prosecution, or be prosecuted, even if there has been prior disclosure and consent to the ‘risk’ and even when condoms were used or the woman had an undetectable viral load.
  • Confidential medical information can be illegally shared with law enforcement agencies.

The report also shows a direct connection between HIV criminalisation and other forms of criminalisation – notably the use and possession of drugs, and of sex work – that exacerbate the burden of discrimination, the violation of rights, and violence experienced by women living with HIV in the region.

Despite the difficult picture painted, the report provides hope, however.

It is the mobilisation of the women’s community and the meaningful participation of HIV-positive women and their allies in advocacy for law reform, rights protections – and in the preparation of alternative reports to UN Committees such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – that are making a real difference in the fight against HIV criminalisation in the region.

Read the report in English or Russian.

Belarus: Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network submits list of issues on the implementation of CEDAW as it relates to women living with HIV

List of Issues on the implementation of the CEDAW by the Republic of Belarus  as it relates to women living with HIV submitted for the consideration at the 83rd Pre-Sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Geneva, Switzerland, 28 February – 4 March 2022

Prepared by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS

  1. The Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS brings together activists and women-led organizations from 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia to improve access to healthcare services for women living with HIV and vulnerable to HIV, to protect them from violence, and provide inclusive involvement of them in public debate, on which their lives and health depend.
  2. This submission focuses on the following issues – harmful effects of the legally enshrined criminal prosecution of women living with HIV (criminalization of HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission), ministerial and inter-agency practices that exacerbate the situation of women living with HIV, women who use drugs, diagnosis disclosure, violence against women.

The full submission is available for download in English and in Russian from the UN Treaty Body Database.



Uganda: HIV law deters communities from seeking HIV services and should be reformed

Kaleba scolds Parliament: The AIDS law is poisonous

“Whereas the law contains important commitments by government for the HIV and AIDS response in Uganda, there are some “poisonous” clauses that could deter all the benefits realised in the fight against the scourge,” she said.


The founder of The Aids Support Organization (TASO), Noerine Kaleeba, has castigated members of parliament, saying they approved the AIDS law which is awash with numerous contentious clauses.

“Whereas the law contains important commitments by government for the HIV and AIDS response in Uganda, there are some “poisonous” clauses that could deter all the benefits realised in the fight against the scourge,” she said.

In 2014, Parliament endorsed the HIV and AIDS Prevention law, which came into effect the same year on July 31, when President Yoweri Museveni assented to it. The law seeks to provide for a legal framework geared towards the prevention and control of HIV.

Kaleeba said the contentious clauses (41 and 43) of the law provide for prosecution on grounds of attempted and intentional transmission of HIV, respectively. Among the provisions of the piece of legislation is criminal penalty for risk and intentional transmission of the virus.

The law requires mandatory disclosure of one’s HIV status, failure of which would be regarded as “criminal”, and attempting to or, intentionally transmitting the virus. Failure to use a condom where one knows their HIV status would constitute a criminal offence, making them liable for prosecution.

Speaking during the 29th Centre General Meeting (CGM) of TASO Mulago last week, Kaleeba regretted that these provisions in the law do not only stigmatise and discriminate against people living with HIV but also deter communities from seeking HIV services such as HIV Testing and subsequently HIV treatment.

TASO founder Noeline Kaleebu together with another founder Peter Ssebanja take to the flow during the 29 AGM for TASO Mulago 

She said that the clauses have fueled domestic violence in homes since the couples each blame one another for intentionally transmitting the virus. She said it is naïve to think that the person who tests first is the one who infects the other, it could be the other way round.

“Honestly, how can it be proven that indeed the HIV of the accuser was got from the accused? There is fear that public knowledge of one’s HIV positive status would be used against them due to personal differences,” she says.

She argued that this will ultimately discourage people from testing to know their status fearing that if found positive, their status could be used against them in courts of law at any point in time. It should thus be noted that one who does not know their status cannot be held liable under this law.

“We should avoid creating scenarios where people living with HIV/AIDS are looked at as criminals or potential criminals,” She says. Adding, “People will inadvertently live with the virus without accessing treatment and by the time they get to know their status it will be too late.”

Kaleeba says that both members of the previous parliament and the President (who signed the law) acted out of ignorance, and therefore made a mistake. She prays that the 10th parliament doesn’t have to keep the error, and this is urgent.

She also hailed the appointment of Winnie Byanyima as the new executive director of UNAIDS, saying it has come at the right time as we are closing the chapter of HIV/AIDS. She said Byanyima is an exceptionally good manager, and her appointment will elevate our country.

“She will definitely give a mirage to Uganda even for those who didn’t know Uganda, will come to know the country, whether they like it or not. The world will say the new UNAIDS ED comes from Uganda, and that way our reputation will be elevated. People living with HIV, therefore, need to double their efforts especially on issues of taking their medication,” she said.

“Strict adherence to treatment is where the war is. When you religiously adhere to your medication, your viral load becomes undetectable, meaning you will not transmit to others. Let us be exemplary and merit Bwanyima’s confidence.”

Responding to Kaleeba’s concerns, the guest of honour, Florence Nambozo, who is also woman MP for Sironko and chairperson HIV/AIDS committee, assured over 800 people who turned up for the CGM that she will talk to her fellow members of parliament to make sure that the law is amended.

She said Uganda is making good progress in the HIV fight and urged people living with HIV to stick to treatment since the ARVs are available and free in all government health facilities.

The Centre Program Manager TASO Mulago, Godfry Mafabi revealed that by end of July TASO Mulago had recorded a cumulative total of 7754 compared to last years’ 1145 in care against a target of 8371 to be achieved by September 2019.

Mafabi said that since the last AGM 918 clients were initiated on ART, of these 23 were children and 139 adolescents, and 756 were adults compared to 663 who were started on ART between 17 August- July 18. The suppression rate is currently at 97% surpassing the new national target of 95% target.

However, the institution is still faced with challenges of funding since the time the donors pulled out. The number of staff was also reduced at the facility to 27 from 75, which is a big setback. We are using expert clients to handle new clients, he said.

Canada: Further reform is needed to redress the harms HIV criminalization brings to the lives of women living with HIV

Recommendations on changes to HIV criminalization don’t go far enough

Earlier this summer, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report on Canada’s approach to criminalizing those who don’t disclose that they’re living with HIV to sexual partners.

If the Standing Committee’s recommendations are adopted, they could diminish the harms experienced by women living with HIV under Canada’s current approach to criminalization.

But further consideration and consultation are required in order to fully address the harms that the law introduces to the lives of women living with HIV.

The Supreme Court of Canada articulated the current legal approach in 2012. In so doing, the court interpreted consent and fraud provisions of Canada’s sexual assault laws and ruled that people diagnosed with HIV must disclose their status to sexual partners before engaging in sexual acts that pose a “realistic possibility of transmission.”

The court also stated that there is no legal obligation to disclose prior to sex if a condom is used and the person living with HIV has a consistently low measure of HIV in their blood. This legal understanding of a “realistic possibility” contradicts current scientific knowledge that just one of these conditions is sufficient to eliminate transmission risk.

Scientific evidence endorsed by the federal government demonstrates that an undetectable viral load eliminates the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, regardless of condom use. Similarly, there is a negligible risk of transmission when condoms are used properly, no matter an individual’s viral load.

Today, in addition to being inconsistent with current scientific evidence, HIV nondisclosure prosecutions are widely seen as unjust as they can result in harsh sentences for actions that result in little or no harm.

Canadian prosecutors and courts apply the criminal offences of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault to prosecute cases of HIV nondisclosure. The latter — one of the most serious offences in Canada’s Criminal Code — carries the possibility of a lifetime sentence and mandatory registration as a sexual offender.

Experts discuss the misuse of sexual assault law in prosecuting cases of HIV nondisclosure in Canada. From Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network & Goldelox Productions.

Women living with HIV & the law

“The law is a bigger risk to us than HIV.” Sophie

The criminalization of HIV nondisclosure was purportedly intended to protect women while reducing HIV transmission risk by promoting disclosure and safer sex practices. Instead, research indicates that punitive approaches have the opposite effects, many of them significantly harmful.

As health scientists at Simon Fraser University, we work alongside experts on two studies: the Canadian HIV and Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Study (CHIWOS), with researchers also from the University of Toronto, McGill University, University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan and McMaster University; and the Women, ART and the Criminalization of HIV (WATCH) study with health partners based at McMaster University.

Findings from these studies indicate that criminalization reinforces socially dominant power dynamics, stigma, marginalization and fear experienced by women living with HIV. Specifically, the current legal requirements ignore the dangers women face in both negotiating the use of condoms and status disclosure due to power inequities, particularly in dependent, violent and non-consensual relationships.

À lire aussi : Why a fulfilling sexual life with HIV matters

“I was raped by three [people …] And if I had told [them] I was HIV positive, I would have been dead. I know it. So where does that fit in the picture?” Julie

Women living with HIV who don’t disclose their status when they are sexually assaulted may themselves be convicted of a sexual offence.

Not only does criminalization contradict scientific evidence around HIV transmission risk, it compromises women’s health-care engagement and deters HIV testing since those who do not know their status cannot be prosecuted. Yet access to HIV testing, treatment and support services is scientifically proven to decrease transmission risk.

Furthermore, women who aren’t prosecuted are still harmed by the law. For example, women who have experienced emotional and physical violence by abusive partners may face the threat of partners falsely reporting that the woman didn’t disclose her HIV status.

Living under the fear of being charged has significant consequences for women’s emotional, mental and physical well-being. This is particularly important given the high rates of physical and sexual violence experienced by women living with HIV in Canada.

“It seems like an impossible situation to prove your innocence.” Miranda

These findings were shared with the Standing Committee through expert testimony by members of CHIWOS and WATCH. Such contributions are integral in moving toward an approach to criminalization that considers the realities of people living with HIV.

Women living with HIV and others share their experiences and knowledge of the criminalization of HIV nondisclosure in Canada. From Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network & Goldelox Productions.

Recommendations could go further

The Standing Committee’s report makes recommendations in a positive direction, but the recommendations need to go further to reduce harms to women living with HIV.

Firstly, the committee recommends creating a new offence in the Criminal Code for nondisclosure of an infectious disease where transmission happens. This recommendation says prosecutions should never be pursued in cases where: an individual has an undetectable viral load; condoms were used; the sexual partner of a person living with HIV is taking pre-exposure prophylactics; or the sexual act carries a negligible risk of transmission (oral sex, for example).

This suggested requirement of a new offense where actual transmission occurs would minimize, though not fully eliminate, opportunities for the law to be used as a tool of violence against women.

Though the creation of a new offence would address the current problematic use of sexual assault laws, failing to consider the intent of not disclosing is significant. In 2008, the United Nations urged states to limit prosecution of HIV nondisclosure to extremely rare cases of actual and intentional transmission.

Heed women’s experiences

Without including the element of intent, the committee has not fully addressed the vulnerability of women who may unintentionally transmit HIV during their own sexual assault or an unprotected sexual encounter. Given the widespread violence experienced by women living with HIV in Canada, this is a substantial deficiency in the recommendations.

And, given the report’s recognition that criminalization has not achieved its public-health goal of reducing HIV transmission, transmission of any infectious disease should be addressed by public-health mechanisms rather than the law.

Secondly, the report recommends ensuring that the same conditions are applied cross-country to consider whether prosecutions should proceed in cases where people haven’t disclosed that they are living with HIV. This recommendation would address the disparities in prosecutions of HIV nondisclosure and reduce various harms to people living with HIV.

Finally, the report recommends a review of all past convictions for HIV nondisclosure and increased access to anonymous testing. These measures are significant in beginning to redress the harms introduced by the current legal approach.

But to fully do that, Canada must heed all the experiences of women living with HIV.

Kazakhstan: Women living with HIV submit report to CEDAW, recommending repeal of HIV criminalisation provision in Kazakhstan penal code

Source: EWNA, published on March 11, 2019

For the first time, HIV+ women in Kazakhstan submitted a shadow report to CEDAW 

Today in Geneva, at the pre-sessional working group of the 74th meeting of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) , representatives of the community of women living with HIV, women who use drugs and sex workers from Kazakhstan presented for the first time a shadow report from civil society on rights situations for women from key groups.

In July 2018, civil society organizations submitted the Shadow Civil Society Report on Discrimination and Violence against Women Living with HIV, Women Using Drugs, Sex Workers and Women from Prisons, to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. The report is based on studies of cases of violation of rights registered by non-governmental organizations in 2015-2017. The full report is available on the EZSS website, in Russian and English .

Here is the text of the oral statement presented by Lyubov Vorontsova, Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV (english text below):

“Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am a woman living with HIV from Kazakhstan and I represent the voices of women from my community.

We consider it extremely important to solve the problems of institutionalized discrimination that violates the rights of women and impedes access to health and social services, as well as contribute to social and economic vulnerability.

Women living with HIV have limited access to residential services in existing crisis centers designed to help women affected by violence. In the capital of Kazakhstan, a young girl with a child who was abused by her husband in winter is refused to be placed in an orphanage, since there is such a law and she has HIV. Article 118 of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan provides for criminal penalties for putting people at risk of HIV infection, which has the opposite effect – this contributes to a higher risk of HIV infection, violence and gender inequality in the family, in the health care system, in society.

According to a study of the Stigma Index, 24.2% of women living with HIV, medical workers forced to terminate a pregnancy (abortion), 34% of women living with HIV never received advice on reproductive opportunities.

We recommend:

  • Revise Article 118. “Infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV / AIDS)” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated July 3, 2014 No. 226-V SA-RC to abolish the provision criminalizing the risk of acquiring HIV
  • To set up offices in crisis centers to work with drug addicts and HIV-positive women. Mobilize state efforts to expand the network of crisis centers and other emergency services for women who have experienced domestic violence, and to ensure adequate public funding for these institutions.
  • Introduce changes to the Order of the Minister of Health and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated December 21, 2016 No. 1079 “On approval of the standard for providing special social services to victims of domestic violence”, limiting the possibility of women living with HIV in crisis centers.

Women who use drugs report the extreme prevalence of police brutality. Due to stigmatization, pregnant drug-addicted women cannot take advantage of necessary medical services, including drug treatment, antenatal care and post-natal care. Opioid substitution therapy is not available for women when they are hospitalized in any medical institution (including maternity hospitals, tuberculosis dispensaries, etc.).Immediately after childbirth, women are forced to travel independently to the substitution therapy program in order to receive drug support with methadone.

The rights of sex workers by medical personnel are violated, in particular, the humiliation of dignity, the infliction of physical and psychological violence, and the disclosure of HIV-positive status to third parties. For this reason, sex workers refuse timely diagnosis in medical institutions.

We recommend:

  • Develop and adopt a humanization policy for women who use drugs, laws and practices based on respect for human rights, which will protect and eliminate any discrimination and violence against women.
  • Include in the complex of preventive programs to combat HIV and AIDS at the local and national levels, training for police officers to reduce stigma and discrimination against women from vulnerable groups.
  • Actively investigate incidents of violence and any unlawful acts committed by law enforcement officers against sex workers, women who use drugs, and reported by public organizations.
  • Develop mechanisms for ensuring personal security and confidentiality that will allow women to report incidents of violence without fear for their safety.
  • Provide government funding for the provision of free family planning services, in particular contraception for marginalized and vulnerable women.
  • Provide training for medical personnel in providing quality sexual and reproductive health services for women living with HIV, sex workers and women who use drugs.
  • Include a substitution therapy program in the national health care system and drug practice, with further expansion and scaling in Kazakhstan, as well as develop mechanisms for access to treatment of opioid substitution therapy in hospitals (tub dispensary, maternity hospitals and others)

In Kazakhstan, there are no studies and disaggregated data in open sources regarding women prisoners. In the fifth periodic report, the state provides data on legislation that provides access to medical services for female prisoners. But this does not answer the question of whether it meets the needs of female prisoners.

We recommend:

  • Conduct research on the degree of satisfaction with women’s sexual and reproductive health services in places of detention, including data on women living with HIV and drug addicts, characterizing their access to antiretroviral treatment and drug treatment, including opioid substitution therapy. ”


Сегодня в Женеве, на предсессионной рабочей группе 74 заседания Комитета ООН по ликвидации всех форм дискриминации в отношении женщин (CEDAW), представительницы сообщества женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, женщин употребляющих наркотики и секс-работниц из Казахстана, впервые представили теневой отчёт от гражданского общества о ситуации с нарушением прав в отношении женщин из ключевых групп.

В июле 2018 г. организациями гражданского общества был подан «Теневой отчет гражданского сообщества о дискриминации и насилии в отношении женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, женщин, употребляющих наркотики, секс — работниц и женщин из мест лишения свободы» в Комитет ООН по ликвидации всех форм дискриминации в отношении женщин. Отчет основан на исследованиях, случаях нарушения прав, зарегистрированных неправительственными организациями в 2015-2017 гг. С полным отчетом можно ознакомиться на сайте ЕЖСС, на русскоми английском языках.

Приводим текст устного заявления, которое представила Любовь Воронцова, Казахстанский Союз Людей, Живущих с ВИЧ (english text below):

«Спасибо, госпожа Председатель.

Я женщина, живущая с ВИЧ из Казахстана, и представляю голоса женщин из своего сообщества.

Мы считаем крайне важным решить проблемы институционализированной дискриминации, которая нарушает права женщин и препятствует доступу к медицинским и социальным услугам, а также способствуют социальной и экономической уязвимости.

Женщины, живущие с ВИЧ, имеют ограниченный доступ к услугам проживания в существующих кризисных центрах, предназначенных для помощи женщинам, пострадавшим от насилия. В столице Казахстана молодая девушка с ребенком, которая зимой подверглась насилию со стороны мужа, получает отказ быть помещенным в приют, поскольку существует такой закон и у нее ВИЧ. Cтатья 118 Уголовного Кодекса Казахстана предусматривает уголовное наказание за постановку в риск заражения ВИЧ, что имеет обратный эффект — это способствует более высокому риску заражения ВИЧ, насилия и гендерного неравенства в семье, в системе здравоохранения, в обществе.

По результатам исследования Индекс Стигмы 24,2% женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, медицинские работники принуждали к прерыванию беременности (аборту), 34% женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, никогда не получали консультацию по репродуктивным возможностям.

Мы рекомендуем:

  • Пересмотреть Статью 118. «Заражение вирусом иммунодефицита человека (ВИЧ/СПИД)» Уголовного кодекса РК от 3 июля 2014 года № 226-V ЗРК, чтобы отменить норму, устанавливающую уголовную ответственность за риск заражения ВИЧ.
  • Создать отделения в кризисных центрах для работы с наркозависимыми и ВИЧ-положительными женщинами. Мобилизовать усилия государства по расширению сети кризисных центров и других служб экстренной помощи женщинам, пережившим домашнее насилие, гарантировать адекватное государственное финансирование для этих учреждений.
  • Внести изменения в Приказ Министра здравоохранения и социального развития Республики Казахстан от 21 декабря 2016 года № 1079 «Об утверждении стандарта оказания специальных социальных услуг жертвам бытового насилия», ограничивающий возможность пребывания в кризисных центрах женщин, живущих с ВИЧ.

Женщины, употребляющие наркотики, сообщают о крайней распространенности жестокости полиции. Из-за стигматизации беременные наркозависимые женщины не могут воспользоваться необходимыми медицинскими услугами, в том числе наркологической, дородовой и послеродовой помощью. Опиоидная заместительная терапия не доступна для женщин при госпитализации в любые медицинские учреждения (включая родильные дома, противотуберкулезные диспансеры и т.д.). Сразу после родов женщины вынуждены самостоятельно добираться до программы заместительной терапии, чтобы получить лекарственную поддержку метадоном.

Нарушаются права секс-работниц со стороны медицинского персонала, в частности, унижение достоинства, причинение физического и психологического насилия, раскрытие ВИЧ-положительного статуса третьим лицам. По этой причине секс-работницы отказываются от своевременной диагностики в медицинских учреждениях

Мы рекомендуем:

  • Разработать и принять политику гуманизации в отношении женщин, употребляющих наркотики, законов и практик, основанных на уважении прав человека, которые обеспечат защиту и исключают любую дискриминацию и насилие в отношении женщин.
  • Включить в комплекс профилактических программ по противодействию ВИЧ и СПИД на местном и национальном уровнях обучающие мероприятия для полицейских о снижении стигмы и дискриминации по отношению к женщинам из уязвимых групп.
  • Активно расследовать случаи насилия и любых незаконных действий, совершенных сотрудниками правоохранительных органов против секс-работниц, женщин, употребляющих наркотики, зарегистрированных и сообщенных общественными организациями.
  • Разработать механизмы обеспечения личной безопасности и конфиденциальности, которые позволят женщинам сообщать о случаях насилия без страха за свою безопасность.
  • Обеспечить государственное финансирование на предоставление бесплатных услуг по планированию семьи, в частности контрацепции для маргинализированных и уязвимых женщин.
  • Обеспечить подготовку медицинского персонала по предоставлению качественных услуг по сексуальному и репродуктивному здоровью для женщин, живущих с ВИЧ, секс-работниц и женщин, употребляющих наркотики.
  • Включить программу заместительной терапии в национальную систему здравоохранения и наркологическую практику, с дальнейшим расширением и масштабированием в Казахстане, а так же разработать механизмы для доступа к лечению опиоидной заместительной терапии в условиях стационаров (тубдиспансер, родильные дома и другие)

В Казахстане отсутствуют исследования и дезагрегированные данные в открытых источниках в отношении женщин-заключенных. В пятом периодическом докладе государство приводит данные о законодательных актах, которые обеспечивают доступ к медицинским услугам для женщин-заключенных. Но, это не отвечает на вопрос о том, удовлетворяет ли это потребности женщин-заключенных.

Мы рекомендуем:

  • Провести исследования о степени удовлетворения услугами по сохранению сексуального и репродуктивного здоровья женщин в местах лишения свободы, включая данные о женщинах, живущих с ВИЧ и наркозависимых, характеризирующие их доступ к антиретровирусному лечению и наркологической помощи, включая опиоидную заместительную терапию.»

Canada: Workshops find that HIV non-disclosure laws are little known amongst women living with HIV and contribute to social injustices

Published in aidsmap on February 4th, 2019

HIV non-disclosure laws perpetuate social injustices against women in Canada

Krishen Samuel
Published: 05 February 2019

People living with HIV in Canada can be charged with aggravated sexual assault and be registered as sexual offenders if they do not disclose their HIV status, but many HIV-positive women have little knowledge of this law, according to a recent qualitative study. The law contributes to increased HIV-related stigma, social injustices and vulnerability to violence for women living with HIV, argue Dr Saara Greene and colleagues.

Forty eight women took part in seven arts-based workshops which each took place over a four-day period. Each workshop included an education session regarding the legal implications of non-disclosure, followed by a focus group discussion that allowed women to share thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding the law.

Canada is one of many countries that continues to criminalise non-disclosure of HIV positive status in sexual acts between consenting individuals. Transmission of the virus does not need to occur: a person can be prosecuted for exposure to the virus in the absence of transmission.

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified its position on HIV transmission, ruling that people living with HIV are legally required to disclose their status to sexual partners before engaging in sexual activities that pose a ‘realistic possibility of transmission’. According to the Court, two combined factors could be used as a defense against this realistic possibility of transmission: a low plasma viral load (under 1500 copies/ml) and the use of a condom.

Thus, the law does not acknowledge biomedical advances that conclusively show transmission is impossible if the infected individual is virally suppressed (see our factsheet on undetectable viral load and transmission). The ruling leaves room for those engaging in condomless sex with an undetectable viral load to be prosecuted. In Canada, a charge of aggravated sexual assault could carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and registration on the sex offender registry.

A more recent 2018 federal directive issued by the attorney general states that a person living with HIV who has maintained a suppressed viral load (under 200 copies/ml of blood) should not be prosecuted, because there is no realistic possibility of transmission. However, this directive only applies in Canada’s three territories and not in the provinces where the vast majority of the population live. Advocates are calling on the provinces to issue similar directives.

The workshops were carried out in 2016 and 2017, in three Canadaian provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia). The median age of participants was 47 (range: 30-59); the majority of women were Indigenous (60%), with only a small percentage of white women (8%). It was important for minority women to be oversampled as HIV prevalence is nearly three times higher in Indigenous peoples across Canada, with high rates of HIV diagnoses occurring in young Indigenous women. Additionally, 42% of women charged with HIV non-disclosure are Indigenous.

Most women were heterosexual (73%), cisgender (94%) and born in Canada (79%). One-third of women were single, with 29% reporting a common-law relationship.

Analysis of the focus group discussions revealed the following themes:

Confusion and concerns regarding the law

Overall, the education sessions revealed that women were largely unfamiliar with and poorly-informed about laws pertaining to non-disclosure. Questions and concerns were related to legal implications (such as a whether charges could be brought against them for exposure in the absence of transmission or for sexual interactions several years ago). Several women asked what it meant to have a low viral load.

Social and legal injustice

Women felt that the law perpetuates existing injustices in the lives of diagnosed HIV positive women. Thus, factors such as stigma, sexism, racism, colonialism and a lack of education might put those already disadvantaged at a higher risk of being criminalised.

“Like even this isn’t accessible or something understandable for some of my people because we have literacy issues. Some of our people, they left residential school at grade 6 and grade 8…” (Jaqueline, Saskatchewan, speaking about a legal factsheet given to participants)

A contradiction inherent in HIV non-disclosure criminalisation law is that while individuals who are unaware of their HIV status and have a high viral load are more likely to unknowingly infect others, these individuals cannot be prosecuted under Canadian law as intent cannot be proven. The women expressed that the law unjustly targets those who are diagnosed:

“…When I was first diagnosed, I had a higher viral load because I wasn’t being treated. And so actually the silent people who don’t know are more at risk of passing it on. So, who is this [law] even protecting? We are the least likely to pass it on.” (Lori, British Columbia)

As a result of assault laws being used in non-disclosure cases, a common sentiment expressed by women living with HIV was that they were carrying a biological weapon. Thus, HIV stigma was internalised, as a result of the legal system depicting women as capable of inflicting serious harm on their partners:

“…If I was going to go over there and stab [participant] with a knife, that’s aggravated assault. So, they’re taking that knife away and using HIV. I may not have given it to her. So, it’s like the knife never even touched her or the knife wasn’t used. I’m still charged.” (Rachelle, British Columbia)

Sexual surveillance

Participants expressed a sense that they were under surveillance by the criminal justice system when it came to their sex lives. In order to prove innocence, women would need to provide evidence of both a low viral load and condom use, or of disclosure.

The researchers labelled this an ‘intimate injustice’, with HIV-positive women needing to prove their innocence within an inherently unjust and oppressive system. The lengths that women would have to go through to prove this innocence is reflected here:

“So how many people do you have in that room? You have the lawyer that’s witnessing the paper that you’re signing that you’ve disclosed. You have the doctor to say, ‘Yeah, you’re under a viral load’. You’ve got the forensic scientist there getting any evidence. You know, everybody is watching.” (Lilian, British Columbia)

A common question related to undetectability was:

‘So when I look at it, I’m undetectable. So, I cannot transmit HIV to who I’m going to have sex with. So why is it any of their business that I have it when I’m undetectable?’

Another common question was how to prove that a condom was used or that disclosure had occurred after a sexual encounter had taken place. It could come down to a ‘he said, she said’ situation, with the HIV-positive woman needing some form of conclusive proof that she had used a condom or disclosed her status prior to engaging in sexual contact.

“Okay, so say I had a sexual partner. I just met this guy. And my CD4 count is 880. I’m undetectable. But I’ve got to tell him before we get into bed. Do I need to make him sign a document and lock it up and have it witnessed by the neighbor?” (Zainab, Ontario)

Vulnerability to violence

Non-disclosure laws may place women at greater risk for violence. As many as 80% of Canadian women living with HIV have experienced violence in adulthood and the requirement to disclose HIV status to sexual partners could increase the likelihood of intimate partner violence by placing women in a vulnerable position.

Women expressed that they do not always have control over when or how sex occurs with their partners; this negates their agency when it comes to negotiating condom use or disclosing their HIV status.

There was also the question of how disclosure applied in cases of domestic abuse and rape. The law would require women to disclose to abusive partners, placing them at risk of even more violence. The troubling nature of this was expressed in this quote:

“I was raped by three [people] in [Canadian city]. They broke into my home and they held me prisoner for 24 hours and beat me and raped me. And if I had told him I was HIV positive, I would have been dead. I know it. So where does that fit in the picture?” (Julie, British Columbia)

Additionally, the law could be used against HIV-positive women by vindictive partners wishing to ‘punish’ them. Many women had been threatened with charges for non-disclosure by disgruntled partners:

“Could they turn around and even if you’re honest and told them, then … they lied and said, ‘Well, I caught it from her’, or him. And they go to the police and get them charged, just out to be spiteful and mean.” (Catherine, Saskatchewan)

Concerns over violence were particularly salient for Indigenous women:

“When you include the Indigenous community and the numbers and statistics there, like we’re already like 10 times the rate of being gone missing, murdered and, you know, facing violence every day. So, when you throw in … you know, HIV, you know, like it just becomes sometimes not even safe. A lot of people stay in very vulnerable situations because of this law…” (Jaqueline, Saskatchewan)


The researchers conclude that for women living with HIV in Canada, non-disclosure laws can lead to unjust victimisation, perpetuating legal and social injustices. Many of the women did not have the necessary legal knowledge to fully understand the implications of their sexual behaviour to begin with. HIV-related stigma has become legally entrenched and results in women who are anxious about sexual encounters and fearful that they will need to find ways of proving their innocence. Non-disclosure laws may also lead to increased violence against women.

When combined with factors such as sexism, racism, colonialism and violence against women, HIV criminalisation results in continued oppression and thus, advocacy for legal reform is necessary and urgent. The recent federal directive is a step in the right direction but it will still take some time for this to filter down to provincial police and prosecutors.


Greene S et al. How women living with HIV react and respond to learning about Canadian law that criminalises HIV non-disclosure: ‘how do you prove that you told?’ Culture, Health & Sexuality online ahead of print, 2019. (Abstract).

Livestream: Beyond Blame – Challenging HIV Criminalisation: Building Bridges Across Movements: Linking HIV Criminalisation With the Criminalisation of Abortion, Drug Use, Gender Expression, Sexuality and Sex Work (HJN, 2018)

Welcome by Luisa Cabal (UNAIDS) Moderator: Susana Fried (CREA and Global Health Justice Partnership) With: Ricki Kgositau (AIDS Accountability International), Oriana López Uribe (BALANCE / RESURJ), Nthabiseng Mokoena (ARASA), Niluka Perera (Youth Voices Count), Jaime Todd-Gher (Amnesty International), Kay Thi Win (Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers)