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Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure — Resources for lawyers and advocatesResponding to the Criminalization of
HIV Transmission or Exposure

Resources for lawyers and advocates

In response to the increasing use of criminal law internationally, as well as to the great need to develop tools for lawyers representing people living with HIV, this kit provides both informative documentation to support lawyers in the preparation of their cases and selected publications that can ultimately be presented in court.

Prepared by: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, AIDES,
Groupe sida Genève, Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+)

Please note: Resources published prior to October 2012 that describe the current state of the criminal law as it relates to HIV non-disclosure in Canada do not take into account the recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions in R. v. Mabior and R. v. D.C. We are presently working to update all our resources in accordance with these decisions.


Table of Contents

1. Living with HIV

This section provides an overview of the evolution of the epidemic since 1984 and a discussion of the impact of an HIV-positive diagnosis on individuals’ lives worldwide.  It includes a chronology of the epidemic and information on the medical implications and social aspects of living with HIV (family, employment, disclosure, sexual relationships, etc.), taking into account the differences in accessing treatments between high- and low-income countries.

2. HIV transmission: the science

This section provides a detailed and fully referenced compilation of the latest scientific evidence and materials regarding treatment, per-act risks of HIV transmission and proving actual HIV transmission from one person to another.

Review and analysis of available scientific research on the risk of HIV transmission during sexual relations

Significant scientific studies and expert statements on the risks of HIV transmission

Viral load

Condom use

  • S. C. Weller and K. Davis-Beaty, “Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission (Review),” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1 (2002) No.: CD003255. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003255. (Abstract)
  • K. K. Holmes, R. Levine, and M. Weaver, “Effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 82, 6 (2004): pp. 454–461.

Oral sex

Biting and spitting

Risks of HIV transmission — general

Scientific evidence on proving actual transmission of HIV

Additional resources

  • F. Nakagawa, M. May, A. Phillips, “Life expectancy living with HIV: recent estimates and future implications,” Curr Opin Infect Dis., 26(1) (2013): pp.17-25. (Abstract)

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3. HIV/AIDS in a legal context: the use of criminal law in cases of HIV transmission or exposure

This section provides an overview of the debate regarding the criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure, through the lens of commentary in the media, criminal defence lawyers, and academics and policy experts.  It includes diverse materials describing the challenges associated with the use of criminal law in cases of HIV transmission and/or exposure, as well as the impact of criminalization on public health and human rights.

Selected press articles


Research and policy documents

Additional resources

4. International recommendations on the criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure

This section provides the recommendations of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the use of criminal law in cases of HIV transmission and/or exposure.

5. Key court decisions internationally

This section provides a compilation of key court decisions on significant and developing issues, including the impact of treatment and the use of condoms on criminal liability.

6. Criminal law and HIV transmission and exposure at the national level

This section provides detailed descriptions of the applicable national laws on HIV transmission and/or exposure, key decisions from national courts (some also included above in section 5), as well as articles from the relevant legal literature.  It focuses on
three countries — namely Canada, France and Switzerland; however, information on the criminal law of other countries can be found in section 7, “Additional resources”.

N.B.: A Canadian sentencing chart is available for defence lawyers, upon request. Please contact Cécile Kazatchkine at ckazatchkine [at]


Key national cases

Additional cases

  • R. v. Ratt, 2012 SKPC 154. (Spitting case)
  • R. v. Bear, 2011 MBQB 191. (Spitting case)
  • R. v. Imona-Russell, Unreported, Reasons for Judgment, 23 February 2009.
  • R. v. Aziga, (4 April 2009), Hamilton CR-08-1735.
  • R. c. D.C., [2008] J.Q. 994 (QL).
  • R. v. J.T., 2008 BCCA. 463.
  • R. v. Smith, [2007] S.J. 166 (QL).
  • R. v. Jones, [2002] N.B.J. 375 (QL).
  • R. v. Agnatuk-Mercier, [2001] O.J. 4729 (QL).


Additional resources


Summary of current law description

Key national cases


Additional resources

  • B. Chapleau, « La pénalisation de la transmission du virus de l’immunodéficience humaine par voie sexuelle », Droit pénal, October 2006.
  • B. de Lamy, « Administration de substances nuisibles – Transmission volontaire
    du virus VIH », Dr. Famille, April 2006, p. 29.
  • A. Prothais, « Le sida par complaisance rattrapé par le droit pénal », Dalloz. 2006, p. 1068.
  • A. Prothais, « Le sida ne serait-il plus, au regard du droit pénal, une maladie mortelle ? », Dalloz 2001, n° 26, Chr. p. 2053.
  • A. Prothais, « N’empoisonnez donc plus à l’arsenic ! », Dalloz., 1998, p. 334.
  • G. Mathieu, « Sida et droit pénal », Revue de science criminelle, 1996, p. 81.


Summary of current law description

Key national cases


7. Additional resources

This section provides additional resources on criminal law and HIV internationally and on other issues related to criminalization, including the stigmatization of HIV and the impact
of the use of criminal law on public health.


Other references

Criminal law and HIV

Prosecutorial Guidelines

England & Wales:


Impact on Public Health


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Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network    GNP+   AIDES

Groupe sida Genève

Download the flyer for this Resource Kit

Cécile Kazatchkine
Policy Analyst
ckazatchkine [at]

Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure — Resources for lawyers and advocates
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
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