Edwin J Bernard: Where HIV Is a Crime, Not Just a Virus (AIDS 2010)

Edwin J Bernard presents a global overview of laws and prosecutions at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, Vienna, 22 July 2010.

Abstract: Where HIV is a crime, not just a virus: a global ranking of prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission.

Issues: The global (mis)use of the criminal law to control and punish the behaviour of PLHIV was highlighted at AIDS 2008, where Justice Edwin Cameron called for “a campaign against criminalisation”. However advocacy on this vitally important issue is in its infancy, hampered by lack of information on a local, national and international level.

Description: A global overview of prosecutions to December 2009, based on data from GNP+ Global Criminalisation Scan (criminalisation.gnpplus.net); media reports collated on criminalhivtransmission.blogspot.com and WHO Europe pilot human rights audit. Top 20 ranking is based on the ratio of rate per year/per HIV population.

Lessons learned: Prosecutions for non-intentional HIV exposure and transmission continue unabated. More than 60 countries have prosecuted HIV exposure or transmission and/or have HIV-specific laws that allow for prosecutions. At least eight countries enacted new HIV-specific laws in 2008/9; new laws are proposed in 15 countries or jurisdictions; 23 countries actively prosecuted PLHIV in 2008/9.

Next steps: PLHIV networks and civil society, in partnership with public sector, donor, multilateral and UN agencies, must invest in understanding the drivers and impact of criminalisation, and work pragmatically with criminal justice system/lawmakers to reduce its harm.

Video produced by georgetownmedia.de