UNAIDS “extremely concerned” by new COVID-19 laws that target people living with or vulnerable to HIV

This week, echoing the concerns of the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE Steering Committee, amongst others, UNAIDS issued a strongly worded press release condemning governments for abusing the current state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic for overreaching their powers and enacting laws that target people who are living with, or vulnerable, to HIV.

“In times of crisis, emergency powers and agility are crucial; however, they cannot come at the cost of the rights of the most vulnerable,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Checks and balances that are the cornerstone of the rule of law must be exercised in order to prevent misuse of such powers. If not, we may see a reversal of much of the progress made in human rights, the right to health and the AIDS response.”

Notably, UNAIDS singles out EU member states, Hungary and Poland.

In Hungary, a new bill has been introduced to remove the right of people to change their gender and name on official documents in order to ensure conformity with their gender identity, in clear breach of international human rights to legal recognition of gender identity.

In Poland, a fast-tracked amendment to the criminal law that increases the penalties for HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission to at least six months in prison and up to eight years in prison has been passed—a clear contravention of international human rights obligations to remove HIV-specific criminal laws.

In addition, UNAIDS condemns overly zealous policing that is especially targeting key populations already stigmatised, marginalised, and criminalised.

UNAIDS is also concerned by reports from a number of countries of police brutality in enforcing measures, using physical violence and harassment and targeting marginalized groups, including sex workers, people who use drugs and people who are homeless. The use of criminal law and violence to enforce movement restrictions is disproportionate and not evidence-informed. Such tactics have been known to be implemented in a discriminatory manner and have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable: people who for whatever reason cannot stay at home, do not have a home or need to work for reasons of survival.

They single out Uganda where “23 people connected with a shelter for providing services for the LGBTI community have been arrested—19 have been charged with a negligent act likely to spread infection or disease. Those 19 are being held in prison without access to a court, legal representation or medication.”

They also highlight Kenya as a model of cjvil society rapid response to human rights concerns following the release of an advisory note “calling for a focus on community engagement and what works for prevention and treatment rather than disproportionate and coercive approaches.”

The statement concludes:

While some rights may be limited during an emergency in order to protect public health and safety, such restrictions must be for a legitimate aim—in this case, to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. They must be proportionate to that aim, necessary, non-arbitrary, evidence-informed and lawful. Each order/law or action by law enforcement must also be reviewable by a court of law. Law enforcement powers must likewise be narrowly defined, proportionate and necessary.

UNAIDS urges all countries to ensure that any emergency laws and powers are limited to a reasonable period of time and renewable only through appropriate parliamentary and participatory processes. Strict limits on the use of police powers must be provided, along with independent oversight of police action and remedies through an accountability mechanism. Restrictions on rights relating to non-discrimination on the basis of HIV status, sexual and reproductive health, freedom of speech and gender identity detailed above do not assist with the COVID-19 response and are therefore not for a legitimate purpose. UNAIDS calls on countries to repeal any laws put in place that cannot be said to be for the legitimate aim of responding to or controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNAIDS recently produced a new guidance document that draws on key lessons from the response to the HIV epidemic: Rights in the time of COVID-19: lessons from HIV for an effective, community-led response.   

Canada: Justice Committee report recommends wide-ranging reforms to HIV criminalisation, including removing HIV non-disclosure from sexual assault law

Yesterday, the House of Commons Standing Committee of Justice and Human Rights released a ground-breaking report “The Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada” recommending that the Government of Canada works with each of the Canadian provinces and territories to end the use of sexual assault law to prosecute allegations of HIV non-disclosure.

According to a press release issued by our HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE partners, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:

People living with HIV currently face imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault and a lifetime designation as a sex offender for not disclosing their HIV status to sexual partners, even in cases where there is little or even zero risk of transmission. This means a person engaging in consensual sex that causes no harm, and poses little or no risk of harm, can be prosecuted and convicted like a violent rapist. We welcome the Committee’s recognition of this unjust reality and their call to end the use of sexual assault laws. We and our allies have spent many years advocating for this critical change.

The report also recommends that Canada limits HIV criminalisation to actual transmission only. The Legal Network notes:

But we must go further: criminal prosecution should be limited to cases of intentional transmission as recommended by the UN’s expert health and human rights bodies. Parliament should heed such guidance. Criminal charges and punishments are the most serious of society’s tools; their use should be limited and a measure of last resort.

However, one of the recommendations that the Legal Network takes issue with is the recommendation to broaden any new law to include other infectious diseases.

Infectious diseases are a public health issue and should be treated as such. We strongly disagree with the recommendation to extend the criminal law to other infectious diseases. We will not solve the inappropriate use of the criminal law against people living with HIV by punishing more people and more health conditions.

Currently, there is a patchwork of inconsistent approaches across each province and territory. Only three provinces — OntarioBritish Columbia and Alberta — have a formal policy in place or have directed Crown prosecutors to limit prosecutions of HIV non-disclosure, and they all fall short of putting an end to unjust prosecutions.

A December 2018 federal directive to limit HIV criminalisation, which solely applies to Canada’s territories, is already having some impact — in January 2019 it led to Crown prosecutors in the Northwest Territories dropping a wrongful sexual assault charge against a man living with HIV in Yellowstone. “We followed the directive and chose not to prosecute,” said Crown attorney Alex Godfrey.

Other positive recommendations in the report include:

  • An immediate review of the cases of all individuals who have been convicted for not disclosing their HIV status and who would not have been prosecuted under the new standards set out in the recommendations of the Committee.
  • These standards must reflect “the most recent medical science regarding HIV and its modes of transmission and the criminal law should only apply when there is actual transmission having regard to the realistic possibility of transmission. At this point of time, HIV non-disclosure should never be prosecuted if (1) the infected individual has an undetectable viral load (less than 200 copies per millilitre of blood); (2) condoms are used; (3) the infected individual’s partner is on PrEP or (4) the type of sexual act (such as oral sex) is one where there is a negligible risk of transmission.”
  • And, until a new law is drafted and enacted (which is only likely to happen if the current Liberal Government is re-elected in October), there should be implementation of a common prosecutorial directive across Canada to end criminal prosecutions of HIV non-disclosure, except in cases where there is actual transmission.

The report also recommends that any new legislation should be drafted in consultation with “all relevant stakeholders including the HIV/AIDS community”, which the Legal Network also welcomed.

The report is the result of a study of the ‘Criminalization of Non-Disclosure of HIV Status that ran between April and June 2019. Many Canadian experts testified as key witnesses to help MPs gain insight into why Canada’s current approach is wrong. HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE also submitted a brief to the committee, providing international context to Canada’s extremely severe approach to HIV non-disclosure.

The Legal Network concludes:

The next step is actual law reform. The report makes clear that change to the criminal law is needed. Any new legal regime must avoid the harms and stigma that have tainted the law these past 25 years.

Canada: New directive to limit unjust prosecutions against people living with HIV to be issued by Attorney General of Canada

OTTAWADec. 1, 2018 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is committed to a fair, responsive and effective criminal justice system that protects Canadians, holds offenders to account, supports vulnerable people, and respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today, on the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced that she will issue a directive related to the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases under the federal jurisdiction of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

In issuing the Directive, the Government of Canada recognizes the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure discourages many individuals from being tested and seeking treatment, and further stigmatizes those living with HIV or AIDS.

This Directive is a real step toward ensuring an appropriate and evidence-based criminal justice system response to cases of HIV non-disclosure. In so doing, it will harmonize federal prosecutorial practices with the scientific evidence on risks of sexual transmission of HIV while recognizing that non-disclosure of HIV is first and foremost a public health matter.

On December 1, 2016, Minister Wilson-Raybould committed to working with her provincial and territorial counterparts, affected communities, and medical professionals to examine the criminal justice system’s response to non-disclosure of HIV status. A year later, on December 1, 2017, the Department of Justice issued its report, The Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV. The Directive will draw upon the recommendations made concerning prosecutorial discretion. It will provide guidance to federal prosecutors in the three territories, ensuring coherent and consistent prosecution practices.

In its 2012 Mabior decision, the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that persons living with HIV must disclose their HIV status prior to engaging in sexual activity that poses a “realistic possibility of transmission”; and the most recent scientific evidence on the risks of sexual transmission of HIV should inform this test.

The Directive to be issued by the Attorney General of Canada will reflect the most recent scientific evidence related to the risks of sexual transmission of HIV, as reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the applicable criminal law as clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Directive will state that, in HIV non-disclosure cases, the Director:

  • shall not prosecute where the person living with HIV has maintained a suppressed viral load (i.e. under 200 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood) because there is no realistic possibility of transmission;
  • shall generally not prosecute where the person has not maintained a suppressed viral load but used condoms or engaged only in oral sex or was taking treatment as prescribed unless other risk factors are present, because there is likely no realistic possibility of transmission in such cases;
  • shall prosecute using non-sexual criminal offences instead of sexual offences where this would better align with the individual’s situation, such as cases where the individual’s conduct was less blameworthy; and
  • must take into account whether a person living with HIV has sought or received services from public health authorities, in order to determine whether it is in the public interest to pursue criminal charges.

The criminal law will continue to apply to persons living with HIV if they do not disclose, or misrepresent, their HIV status before sexual activity that poses a realistic possibility of HIV transmission.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Act requires that directives from the Attorney General of Canada be published in the Canada Gazette. The Directive will take effect upon publication in Part I of the Canada Gazette on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

Quote

“Our criminal justice system must be responsive to current knowledge, including the most recent medical science on HIV transmission. I am proud of this important step forward in reducing the stigmatization of Canadians living with HIV while demonstrating how a scientific, evidence-based approach can help our criminal justice system remain fair, responsive and effective.”

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick Facts

  • World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. It is marked on December 1 of every year. This year’s theme is “Know your status”.
  • Canada’s efforts to detect and treat HIV have resulted in the majority of persons living with HIV in Canada knowing their status and receiving appropriate treatment.
  • There is no HIV-specific offence in the Criminal Code. However, persons living with HIV who do not disclose their status may be charged with aggravated sexual assault because the non-disclosure is found to invalidate their partner’s consent to engage in sexual activity in certain circumstances. This is the most serious sexual offence in the Criminal Code.
  • The Directive will take into consideration current scientific evidence and research on HIV transmission. It will provide clear direction to federal prosecutors in the territories when exercising their discretion to decide whether to prosecute HIV non-disclosure cases. The research supporting the development of the Directive was compiled by the Public Health Agency of Canada, informed the Department of Justice Canada’s Report on the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV, and was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
  • The Directive is the result of significant engagement and consultation with LGBTQ2+ advocates, including the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, leading academics in the field, health professionals, as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Associated Links

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SOURCE Department of Justice Canada

For further information: media may contact: Célia Canon, Communications Advisor, Office of the Minister of Justice, 613-862-3270; Media Relations, Department of Justice Canada, 613-957-4207, media@justice.gc.ca

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International meeting of legal experts starts work on principles to address the misuse and abuse of criminal laws

Addressing the detrimental health and human rights impacts of criminal laws

People have a fundamental human right to make decisions about their lives and bodies. These rights relate to personal choices on, among other things, health care and treatment. For sexual and reproductive rights, key issues include the right of people to decide when, whether and with whom to have sex, to have children and to get married and their ability to express their gender and sexuality.

Leading legal experts from around the world recently met to lay the foundations for a set of principles to address the misuse and abuse of criminal laws that affect basic human rights and impact on health and equality. The principles will be developed in the coming months and will guide civil society and policy-makers in the development and use of laws that guarantee human rights and protect public health.

Tim Martineau, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, a.i., noted at the outset of the meeting that, “While there is significant progress in HIV prevention, treatment and care, there is a big discrepancy in HIV prevention in relation to key populations, who are more vulnerable to HIV infection in many respects because of a lack of legal protection and the unjust criminalization of their behaviour.”

The legal experts focused on criminalization related to sexuality, reproduction, personal drug use and the overly broad criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission. Around the world, same-sex sexual practices are criminalized in 73 countries, with 13 states imposing the death penalty. Sex work is criminalized in approximatively 116 countries globally and some 72 countries criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission. Criminal laws often increase stigma against already marginalized and excluded groups and have been linked to discrimination and the denial of critical health services. Criminalization also creates an environment in which people are less likely to seek police assistance when their rights have been violated.

Kate Gilmore, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized that the criminal law plays an essential role in the recognition, protection and enforcement of rights, including by tackling impunity for violations of those rights. “Our purpose here is to raise the shield of criminal law by lowering its sword, ensuring better protection through criminal law by reducing the abuse of it.”

Sam Zarifi, the Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, said, “The misuse of the criminal law affects the most marginalized people and, in particular, the dispossessed and disenfranchised.”

The meeting was held on 3 and 4 May and was led by the International Commission of Jurists, in partnership with UNAIDS and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Published on UNAIDS site on May 8, 2018

Lawyers for HIV and TB Justice 2018 Training (Johannesburg, 2018)

This playlist contains recordings of a training for lawyers on strategic litigation, legal defense and advocacy on HIV and TB justice from 20-23 February 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), HIV Justice Worldwide, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Stop TB Partnership, the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), and the Kenya Legal & Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN). The training was funded under the Africa Regional Grant on HIV: Removing Legal Barriers. Resources and more information on the training are available here: http://www.southernafricalitigationce… With thanks to Nicholas Feustel of Georgetown Media.

Mexico: The Mexican Secretary of Health should avoid discriminatory terminology and focus on stopping the criminalisation of people with HIV, state activists

By using the word “contaminated” the Mexican Secretary of health has committed a crime, state activists

When using the word “contaminated” against patients with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the Secretary of Health Arturo Iran Suárez Villa committed a crime by using a term not compliant with the official Mexican regulation 010, revealed in a position statement the Mexican Network of Organizations against the Criminalization of HIV, composed of 32 civil society organizations and member of the HIV Justice Worldwide initiative.

In support, they said that it is unacceptable for a Secretary of Health to refer to people with HIV as contaminated.

“In accordance with the methods, principles and criteria of operation of the components of the National Health System enunciated in the MEXICAN OFFICIAL REGULATION NOM-010-SSA2-2010, FOR THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF INFECTION BY HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUSES, instruments, tissues, blood are contaminated but not people. The word is discriminatory and, in Mexico, it is a crime, “they said.

For this reason, they urged him to consult the Reference Document. UNAIDS Terminology Guidelines (UNAIDS 2015), to familiarise himself with the correct terms to be used when talking about HIV and AIDS.

“The concern of Dr. Suárez Villa – as head of the sector – should focus on avoiding any form of criminalization of people with HIV in Veracruz, since these contravene the International Guidelines on HIV / AIDS and Human Rights (UNAIDS, 2016), as it is embodied in article 159 of the Code, “they indicated.

It should be noted that HIV Justice Worldwide is an initiative composed of national, regional and global civil society organizations, working together to end the criminalization of HIV.

The founding partners are: AIDS Rights Alliance for South Africa (ARASA); Canadian Legal HIV / AIDS Network; Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP +), HIV Justice Network; International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW); Positive Women Network-USA. (PWN-USA); and Sero Project (SERO). The initiative is also supported by Amnesty International, the International HIV / AIDS Alliance, UNAIDS and UNDP.

Published in Palabras Claras, on January 30, 2018

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Con vocablo “contaminado”, incurrió Suárez Villa en un delito: activistas

Al usar la palabra “contaminado” contra los pacientes con el Virus de Inmunodeficiencia Humana (VIH), el Secretario de Salud Arturo Irán Suárez Villa incurrió en un delito al usar un término no aceptado por la Norma Oficial Mexicana 010, revelaron en un posicionamiento la Red Mexicana de Organizaciones contra la Criminalización del VIH, conformada a su vez por 32 organizaciones de la sociedad civil y suscrita a la iniciativa HIV Justice Worldwide1.

En su sustento, dijeron que es inaceptable que un Secretario de Salud se refiera a las personas con VIH como contaminados.

“De acuerdo con los métodos, principios y criterios de operación de los componentes del Sistema Nacional de Salud enunciados en la NORMA OFICIAL MEXICANA NOM-010-SSA2-2010, PARA LA PREVENCION Y EL CONTROL DE LA INFECCION POR VIRUS DE LA INMUNODEFICIENCIA HUMANA, se contaminan los instrumentos, los tejidos, la sangre pero no las personas. La palabra es discriminatoria y, en México, es un delito” indicaron.

Por lo que le exhortaron a consultar el Documento de Referencia. Orientaciones Terminológicas de ONUSIDA (ONUSIDA 2015), para que se familiarice con los términos correctos a usarse que cuando se habla del VIH y del sida.

“La preocupación del doctor Suárez Villa –como cabeza de sector– debería enfocarse en evitar cualquier forma de criminalización a las personas con VIH en Veracruz, ya que estas contravienen las Directrices Internacionales sobre VIH/sida y los Derechos Humanos (ONUSIDA, 2016), tal y como se encuentra plasmado en el artículo 159 del Código” indicaron.

Cabe destacar que HIV Justice Worldwide (Justicia por VIH en todo el mundo) es una iniciativa compuesta por organizaciones de la sociedad civil nacionales, regionales y mundiales, trabajando en conjunto para terminar con la criminalización del VIH.

Los socios fundadores son: SIDA y Alianza por los Derechos para Sudáfrica (ARASA); Red Legal Canadiense de VIH/SIDA; Red Mundial de Personas Viviendo con VIH (GNP+), Red de Justicia para el VIH; Comunidad Internacional de Mujeres Viviendo con VIH (ICW); Red de Mujeres Seropositivas-E.E.U.U. (PWN-USA); y Proyecto Sero (SERO). La iniciativa también es apoyada por Amnistía Internacional, la Alianza Internacional de VIH/SIDA, ONUSIDA y PNUD.

Canada: Ontario will no longer prosecute people who don't disclose their HIV status if they have a suppressed viral load

Ontario to curb prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases

Crown attorneys will not prosecute cases of HIV-positive people who do not disclose they have HIV if they have had a “suppressed” viral load, or amount of HIV, in their blood for six months.

The Ontario government announced Friday, World AIDS Day, that Crown attorneys will no longer prosecute cases of HIV-positive people who don’t disclose their status to their sexual partner when the person who is HIV-positive has had a suppressed viral load for six months.

Viral load is the amount of the HIV virus in a person’s blood.

The announcement was a response to the federal justice department’s report titled “Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV,” released Friday.

The report, backed by analysis from the Public Health Agency of Canada, concludes that the criminal law should generally not apply to people who are on HIV treatment (which suppresses their viral load and makes transmission unlikely), are not on treatment, but use condoms, or engage only in oral sex.

“The realistic possibility of a transmission test is likely not met in these circumstances,” the report concludes.

The federal report recognized that HIV “is first and foremost a public health issue,” and concluded that non-disclosure prosecutions disproportionately affect people who are Indigenous, gay and Black.

While the province’s announcement to limit prosecutions was seen as modest progress, a number of organizations quickly pointed out that the government should only be prosecuting cases where there was actual, intentional transmission of HIV.

Ontario has been criticized by advocates as being a world leader in unjustly prosecuting HIV-positive people, typically charging them with aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partner.

Published in the Star on Dec 1, 2017

Canada: Federal Justice Ministry releases its long-anticipated report “Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV

Government releases Report on the Criminality of HIV non-disclosure

News Release

December 1, 2017 – Ottawa, ON – Department of Justice Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system protects Canadians, holds offenders to account, provides support to victims, meets the highest standards of equity and fairness, and respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Today, on World AIDS Day, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, released the Department of Justice Canada’s report entitled Criminal Justice System’s Response to the Non-Disclosure of HIV. The report represents a significant step forward in raising awareness and addressing concerns about the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada, which can discourage testing and treatment.

The report, developed in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, reaffirms that HIV is fundamentally a public health issue. It provides a comprehensive review of the most recent medical science on the risks of HIV transmission through sexual activity and shows how the criminal law deals with cases involving the non-disclosure of HIV-positive status prior to sexual activity.

Once a fatal infection, HIV is now considered to be a manageable condition, thanks to significant medical advances in HIV treatment. Sustained treatment substantially improves quality of life and prevents the transmission of HIV.

The report examines stakeholder perspectives, approaches taken in other countries, public health responses to HIV cases, and criminal justice responses to HIV non-disclosure and draws several conclusions from this overview. Together, it informs an evidence-based approach to addressing HIV non-disclosure in the criminal justice system.

The report will provide valuable assistance to the Minister of Justice as she continues to work with her provincial and territorial counterparts on the way forward. Based on its conclusions and observations, she will be reviewing existing charging and prosecution practices leading to the possible development of prosecutorial guidelines for federal prosecutors.

Quotes

“There has been significant progress in the treatment, management and prevention of HIV infection since the first World AIDS Day observed in 1988. I am pleased to release this report today on World AIDS Day. It clearly demonstrates that our criminal justice system must adapt to better reflect this progress as well as current scientific evidence on HIV-AIDS. Our Government is taking action to help reduce the stigmatization of persons living with HIV, including undertaking an evidence-based approach to addressing HIV non-disclosure in the criminal justice system.”

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“This report is critical to reducing HIV-related stigma in Canada. I will continue to work with my colleague, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, as well as with people living with HIV to reduce the stigma and discrimination they face, which can be barriers to prevention and treatment.”

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Health

Quick Facts

  • Canada’s efforts to detect and treat HIV have resulted in the majority of persons living with HIV in Canada knowing their status and receiving appropriate treatment.
  • There is no HIV-specific offence in the Criminal Code. However, persons living with HIV who do not disclose their status are often charged with aggravated sexual assault because the non-disclosure is found to invalidate their partner’s consent to engaging in sexual activity in certain circumstances. This is the most serious sexual offence in the Criminal Code.
  • The criminal law applies to persons living with HIV if they fail to disclose, or misrepresent, their HIV status prior to sexual activity that poses a realistic possibility of HIV transmission.
  • As stated in the report, current research shows that sexual activity (with or without a condom) with a person living with HIV who is taking treatment as prescribed and has maintained a suppressed viral load (i.e., under 200 copies of HIV per ml of blood) poses a negligible risk of transmission. Across studies to date, there have been no confirmed cases of sexually transmitted HIV to an HIV-negative partner when the HIV-positive partner was continuously on antiretroviral therapy with sustained viral suppression.

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US: Center for HIV Law and Policy releases updated ‘HIV Criminalization Sourcebook’

Today, the Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) has released a third, updated version of their ‘Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: State and Federal Laws and Prosecutions’ series, first published in 2010.

The renamed HIV Criminalization in the United States: A Sourcebook on State and Federal HIV Criminal Law and Practice updates and expands upon the previous versions with the inclusion of new reporting and analysis of laws and regulations allowing for quarantine, isolation and civil commitment of people living with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, in each jurisdiction.

This resource for lawyers and community advocates outlines punitive laws, policies, and cases affecting people living with HIV (PLHIV) and other communicable diseases in all fifty states, the military, federal prisons, and U.S. territories. It may be used as an aid for attorneys of people living with HIV prosecuted for “HIV exposure” or non-disclosure of HIV status, as well as for advocates who want to reform HIV-related criminal laws in their state.

The ‘HIV Criminalization Sourcebook’ catalogues and analyses state and federal HIV criminal laws in the United States, providing examples of recent prosecutions and explanations of the major cases applying these laws, along with text and analysis of state laws on other sexually transmitted diseases that involve criminal penalties or other restrictions for exposing another person to possible infection.

Specifically, it covers laws that:

1. criminalize non-disclosure of HIV status or exposure of a third party to HIV;

2. make exceptions to confidentiality and privacy rights of people living with HIV;

3. provide for sentence enhancements for people living with HIV convicted of underlying crimes such as ‘prostitution’ and ‘solicitation’; and

4. require sex offender registration for people living with HIV convicted of these ‘crimes’.

The Sourcebook is part of CHLP’s campaign to support state advocates through tools that expand legal literacy on HIV criminalization. In addition to the Sourcebook, CHLP’s website includes a separate page for each state summarizing relevant HIV and STI criminal law sections, so that users can download everything they need just for their state in addition to accessing the entire Sourcebook.

The Center for HIV Law and Policy will be co-hosting a webinar on October 11, 2017 to review ways to use the Sourcebook in HIV criminal reform efforts. The webinar also will explore some of the different strategic pathways to reform, along with benefits and drawbacks to those different options. The discussion will cover some of the key factors and questions to consider in deciding on what reform strategy makes the most sense in a given jurisdiction.

Read the full press release here

Download the HIV Criminalization Sourcebook here

US: California LGBT Caucus holds briefing on the proposed repeal of HIV criminalisation laws

On Thursday, the LGBT Caucus held a briefing on the decriminalizing HIV and SB 239 introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

The controversial bill, Senate Bill 239, introduced in early February, would repeal laws passed more than three-decades ago that Wiener and supporters say are discriminatory and not based in science. The proposed bill would treat HIV like other communicable diseases under California Law.

According to the proposed bill, it would make it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to intentionally expose someone to HIV.

Here is a look at the Legislative Digest regarding the bill:

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

 

SB 239, as introduced, Wiener. Infectious and communicable diseases: HIV and AIDS:criminal penalties.
(1) Existing law makes it a felony punishable by imprisonment for 3, 5, or 8 years in the state prison to expose another person to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by engaging in unprotected sexual activity when the infected person knows at the time of the unprotected sex that he or she is infected with HIV, has not disclosed his or her HIV-positive status, and acts with the specific intent to infect the other person with HIV. Existing law makes it a felony punishable by imprisonment for 2, 4, or 6 years for any person to donate blood, body organs or other tissue, or, under specified circumstances, semen or breast milk, if the person knows that he or she has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), or that he or she has tested reactive to HIV. Existing law provides that a person who is afflicted with a contagious, infectious, or communicable disease who willfully exposes himself or herself to another person, or any person who willfully exposes another person afflicted with the disease to someone else, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
This bill would repeal those provisions. The bill would instead make the intentional transmission of an infectious or communicable disease, as defined, a misdemeanor, if certain circumstances apply, including that the defendant knows he or she is afflicted with the disease, that the defendant acts with the specific intent to transmit the disease to another person, that the defendant engages in conduct that poses a substantial risk of transmission, as defined, and that the defendant transmits the disease to the other person. The bill would impose various requirements upon the court in order to prevent the public disclosure of the identifying characteristics, as defined, of the complainant and the defendant. By creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(2) Under existing law, if a defendant has been previously convicted of prostitution or of another specified sexual offense, and in connection with the conviction a blood test was administered, as specified, with positive test results for AIDS, of which the defendant was informed, the previous conviction and positive blood test results are to be charged in any subsequent accusatory pleading charging a violation of prostitution. Existing law makes defendant guilty of a felony if the previous conviction and informed test results are found to be true by the trier of fact or are admitted by the defendant.
This bill would delete that provision. The bill would also vacate any conviction, dismiss any charge, and legally deem that an arrest under the deleted provision never occurred. The bill would require any court or agency having custody or control of records pertaining to the arrest, charge, or conviction of a person for a violation of the deleted provision to destroy, as specified, those records by June 30, 2018. By imposing this duty on local agencies, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would also authorize a person serving a sentence as a result of a violation of the deleted provision to petition for a recall or dismissal of sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in his or her case. The bill would require a court to vacate the conviction and resentence the person to any remaining counts while giving credit for any time already served.
(3) Existing law requires the court to order a defendant convicted for a violation of soliciting or engaging in prostitution for the first time to complete instruction in the causes and consequences of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and to submit to testing for AIDS. Existing law requires such a defendant, as a condition of either probation or participating in a drug diversion program, to participate in an AIDS education program, as specified.
This bill would repeal those provisions.
(4) The bill would also make other conforming changes.
(5) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.

Here is a copy of the Press Release introducing the Bill on Feb 6


Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Gloria Announce Bill to Modernize Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws
Equality California, Positive Women’s Network – USA, ACLU and others join in support of bill to reform outdated laws enacted during a time of fear and ignorance to make them more consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases
February 6, 2017

 

Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced a bill to modernize laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV. Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) is also a co-author of the bill. Senate Bill 239 would amend California’s HIV criminalization laws, enacted in the 1980s and ‘90s at a time of fear and ignorance about HIV and its transmission, to make them consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases.

The bill is cosponsored by the ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal and Positive Women’s Network – USA. The organizations are part of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), a broad coalition of people living with HIV, HIV and health service providers, civil rights organizations and public health professionals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in California. San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy also attended the announcement.

“These laws are discriminatory, not based in science, and detrimental to our HIV prevention goals,” said Senator Wiener. “They need to be repealed. During the 1980s — the same period when some proposed quarantining people with HIV — California passed these discriminatory criminal laws and singled out people with HIV for harsher punishment than people with other communicable diseases. It’s time to move beyond stigmatizing, shaming, and fearing people who are living with HIV. It’s time to repeal these laws, use science-based approaches to reduce HIV transmission (instead of fear-based approaches), and stop discriminating against our HIV-positive neighbors.”

SB 239 updates California criminal law to approach transmission of HIV in the same way as transmission of other serious communicable diseases. It also brings California statutes up to date with the current understanding of HIV prevention, treatment and transmission. Specifically, it eliminates several HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh and draconian penalties, including for activities that do not risk exposure or transmission of HIV. It would make HIV subject to the laws that apply to other serious communicable diseases, thereby removing discrimination and stigma for people living with HIV, and maintaining public health.

“It’s time for California to reevaluate the way it thinks about HIV and to reduce the stigma associated with the disease,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “Current state law related to those living with HIV is unfair because it is based on the fear and ignorance of a bygone era. With this legislation, California takes an important step to update our laws to reflect the medical advances which no longer make a positive diagnosis equal to a death sentence.”

“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand the need to get outdated and unscientific laws based on homophobia and fear off the books,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “These laws criminalize and stigmatize people with HIV, and they must be updated.”

Legislators passed a number of laws three decades ago, at the height of the HIV epidemic, that criminalized behaviors of people living with HIV or added HIV-related penalties to existing crimes. These laws were based on fear and on the limited medical understanding of the time.  When most of these laws were passed, there were no effective treatments for HIV and discrimination against people living with HIV was rampant.

In the decades since, societal and medical understanding of HIV has greatly improved. Effective treatments dramatically lengthen and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV—treatments that also nearly eliminate the possibility of transmission. In addition, similar treatments are available to HIV-negative people to nearly eliminate risk of infection. Laws criminalizing people with HIV do nothing to further public health and, in fact, stigmatize them, discouraging testing or obtaining necessary medical care.  The laws also reduce the likelihood of disclosure of a positive HIV status to sexual partners.

“These laws are disproportionately used against women and people of color, and fuel stigma, violence and discrimination,” said Naina Khanna, executive director of the Positive Women’s Network – USA.  “Despite their claims to protect vulnerable communities, these laws actually cause further harm, both to people living with HIV and the broader public.”

HIV criminalization disproportionately affects women and people of color. Forty-three percent of those criminalized under California’s HIV-specific criminal laws are women, despite comprising only 13 percent of people living with HIV in the state. Blacks and Latinos make up two-thirds of people who came into contact with the criminal justice system based on their HIV status, despite comprising only about half of people living with HIV/AIDS in California.

“These laws impose felony penalties and harsh prison sentences on people who have engaged in activities that do not risk transmission and do not endanger public health in any way,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Modernizing them would reduce discrimination and stigma for people living with HIV. Ending stigma is at the core of ending HIV. Treatment of HIV has entered the 21st century – it’s time for California’s laws to reflect that, as well.”

“Living with HIV should not be a crime in California,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who is the first HIV positive member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a leader in San Francisco’s Getting to Zero coalition to end all new HIV infections. “That’s why I support Senator Wiener’s legislation.”

In addition to the organizations sponsoring the bill, it is currently supported by CHCR members which include the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project, the Transgender Law Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the Free Speech Coalition, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP).

Published on East County Today on March 10th, 2017