In many countries, including Canada, people living with HIV are being convicted of serious criminal offences and sentenced to significant time in prison for not disclosing their HIV status — even when there is no transmission and people have taken highly effective precautions that mean the risk of transmission is exceedingly small. In other cases, people are facing more serious, discriminatory charges simply because they have HIV — even when there is no risk of transmission.
These misuses of the criminal law are often done in the name of public health. Yet there’s no good evidence that the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure and of people living with HIV is effective at preventing HIV transmission. In fact, HIV criminalization:
- undermines effective public health initiatives, such as HIV testing, counselling and support, and partner notification;
- creates a false sense of security that the law can and will protect people from HIV infection;
- contradicts the message that every person is responsible for their own sexual health; and
- leads to human rights abuses by increasing the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.
We’re working to limit the negative consequences of HIV criminalization by:
- intervening in proceedings before Canadian courts and providing support to defence attorneys and people living with HIV;
- engaging relevant policy-makers in developing evidence-informed guidance for police and prosecutors;
- helping community-based HIV organizations to understand the legal landscape; and
- providing comment and assistance to journalists reporting on this issue.
Highlights of our work in Canada and around the world from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016.
This Discussion Guide was created for people who want to use the film Consent: HIV non-disclosure and sexual assault law to engage colleagues, clients, students and communities on the use of sexual assault law to criminalize HIV non-disclosure in Canada. It is meant to be used as a companion piece to the film. To watch Consent online, […]
In April 2014, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network hosted a ground-breaking workshop, Rethinking HIV Non-Disclosure and Sexual Assault: A Feminist Dialogue. Approximately 30 socio-legal scholars, criminologists, lawyers, anti-violence advocates, researchers, graduate students, people living with HIV, and other members of the feminist and HIV communities participated in a series of panels and roundtables. This report […]
November 17, 2015 In a television interview this week, actor Charlie Sheen revealed he is living with HIV, claiming that part of his reason for doing so is to put an end to years of rumours as well as extortion through threats of revealing his status. His revelation has prompted a flurry of media attention […]
This brochure — in five languages — will help newcomers to Canada make informed decisions about disclosing to sexual partners.
A new documentary film on HIV non-disclosure and sexual assault law — produced by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Goldelox Productions
May 7, 2015 On April 30, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network co-hosted this ancillary event at the Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR), along with the Canadian Experts on HIV and Transmission Team, and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO). In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada took a step in the wrong […]
On December 8, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada heard R. v. W., an HIV non-disclosure case in which the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) and COCQ-SIDA (the provincial network of HIV organizations in Quebec) intervened. In this case, a man living with HIV was appealing his conviction […]
The following op-ed was published in the November 24, 2014 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. Michael Orsini is director of the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies and associate professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. Richard Elliott is executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. We’ve made great […]
Blog by Cécile Kazatchkine, Senior Policy Analyst The overly broad criminalization of HIV is not a uniquely Canadian problem. In many countries around the world, a person living with HIV can be prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison for not disclosing their status, exposing someone to HIV or transmitting the virus. The situation in Canada is particularly infuriating at this juncture […]
This is a series of three info sheets on the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada: The obligation to disclose HIV-positive status under Canadian criminal law The criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada and internationally Criminalization, public policy and community responses
This short, two-part video series addresses the urgent, pressing legal issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada,
A series of 23 short videos on the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada, produced in July 2014 by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Cécile Kazatchkine, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, answers questions for people living with HIV about disclosure and the criminal law in Canada. We recommend that you watch […]
Judging the epidemic has been prepared as a resource to help judges, magistrates, arbitrators and other judicial officers throughout the world adjudicate cases involving HIV-related issues. This handbook may also be used by judicial trainers and ministries of justice to deliver educational programmes to judges and magistrates on legal issues related to HIV and human […]
On October 5, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decisions in the cases of Mabior and D.C. The Court decided that people living with HIV have a legal duty, under the criminal law, to disclose their HIV-positive status to sexual partners before having sex that poses a “realistic possibility” of HIV transmission. Not […]
On October 5, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released important decisions in two cases of HIV non-disclosure; namely, R. v. Mabior and R. v. D.C. Mabior is a man who had sex with several women without disclosing his HIV-positive status. D.C. is a woman who had sex with her abusive former partner once before […]
This Resource Kit is intended to provide both people living with HIV and service providers with useful information and tools to make informed and empowered choices about how to respond to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure.
This is one in a series of four info sheets on the human rights of women living with or vulnerable to HIV in Canada.
This is Section 3 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. The context of criminal prosecutions related to HIV varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This section highlights some important and useful case law internationally, guidelines for prosecutors which limit the […]
This is Section 2 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. This section provides detailed descriptions of the applicable national laws on HIV transmission and/or exposure, key decisions from national courts (some also included below in section 3), as well as […]
This is Section 1 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. Some lawyers and service providers have lots of experience with HIV, while others may not have as much. There are a lot of common misconceptions about HIV — and left […]
This is Section 6 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. This section provides information about the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and/or transmission across the world as well as actions taken to reduce inappropriate use of the criminal law against […]
This is Section 5 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. This section provides international recommendations on the use of criminal law in cases of HIV non-disclosure, transmission and/or exposure. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General comment No. […]
This is Section 4 of Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates. Access the full kit at aidslaw.ca/lawyers-kit. 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 […]
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 resource kit provides both informative documentation to support lawyers in the preparation of their cases and selected publications that can ultimately be presented in court.