HIV Criminalization

HIV Criminalization

aidslaw.ca/criminalization

Criminalization | Criminalisation

Overview

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.

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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.

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Indigenous Communities and HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Q&A

Indigenous Communities and HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners

This brochure has been prepared by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. It will provide you with important information about the law in Canada as it relates to HIV disclosure.

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Responding to the Criminalization of HIV Transmission or Exposure: Resources for lawyers and advocates

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.

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Expert consensus statement on the science of HIV in the context of criminal law

Twenty scientists from regions across the world developed this Expert Consensus Statement to address the use of HIV science by the criminal justice system.

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Limiting HIV prosecutions: Nice talk, but little action

November 5, 2018 It’s past time for action by the federal government. On World AIDS Day 2016, the federal Justice Minister declared that Canada must address the “overcriminalization of HIV” that contributes to HIV stigma and undermines public health. She also committed to working with the provinces, affected communities and medical professionals to this end. […]

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Open Letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

“Dear Minister: Re: Commitment to take action to end “overcriminalization of HIV” in Canada? I write further to our letter of August 3rd and following recent discussions with representatives of your office and of your department regarding measures your government could take to follow through on your previously stated concern about the overly broad use […]

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Bringing science to justice: historic announcement at AIDS 2018

  July 25, 2018 Today we welcome an important development in the ongoing fight against HIV criminalization in Canada and around the globe.  At the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018), underway this week in Amsterdam, 20 of the world’s leading HIV scientists published a peer-reviewed “Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the […]

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Media Statement: Groundbreaking consensus on HIV criminalization released by world scientific experts at International AIDS Conference

July 25, 2018 — Today, at the 22nd International AIDS Conference underway in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 20 eminent world scientists — including two leading Canadian researchers — released a groundbreaking Expert Consensus Statement providing their conclusive opinion on the low-to-no possibility of a person living with HIV transmitting the virus in various situations, including via […]

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Comments on Recommendations from Canada’s Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network welcomes this opportunity to provide comments on recommendations that Canada has received during its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place on May 11, 2018. In this brief, the Legal Network provides comments on priority recommendations that Canada should consider accepting of the 299 recommendations received during the UPR. […]

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Legal Network submissions to 48th OAS General Assembly

From June 3-5, 2018 the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network participated in the 48th General Assembly (GA) of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Washington D.C. Unlike most other OAS GAs, there was no central theme for the this gathering and so many issues were open for discussion.  The Legal Network therefore collaborated with other civil society organizations working on similar issues, including LGBTI human rights, sex worker rights, drug use […]

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Media advisory: Vital community dialogue about HIV criminalization and the way forward

TORONTO June 13, 2018 — Canada (and Ontario) has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of criminalizing people living with HIV in the world. As Pride Toronto marks 35 years of AIDS activism this Pride Month, and with the results of last week’s provincial election creating uncertainty about the future of […]

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Submission to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network promotes the human rights of people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV or AIDS, in Canada and internationally, through research and analysis, litigation and other advocacy, public education and community mobilization. Since the 2012 publication of the final report of the Global Commission on HIV and the […]

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Media advisory: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network marks 25 years of rights and resistance

For 25 years, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has been defending and advancing human rights in response to HIV, in Canada and globally. This milestone will be commemorated in Vancouver on Friday, April 27, with a reception attended by former Legal Network board president and current B.C. Attorney General, the Hon. David Eby.

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Comments on Canada’s Draft Third Report Under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

In this brief, the Legal Network provides information about Canada’s implementation of its international human rights obligations as raised in the draft report, organized under subheadings included in the draft report. It expands on issues presented in the Legal Network’s Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group in advance of the […]

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Respect, Protect, Fulfill: A Human Rights Response to HIV

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s strategic plan, Respect, Protect, Fulfill: A Human Rights Response to HIV sets out the goals for the organization over the next five years.

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(Français) La pénalisation du VIH en Afrique francophone : état des lieux

Sorry, this entry is only available in French.

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Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group: Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network makes this submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in advance of the third review of Canada, to take place in April/May 2018. In this submission, the Legal Network describes four key areas requiring action from the government of Canada to fulfill the […]

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RETHINKING JUSTICE: 7th Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights: Report

Since 2009, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has organized a number of symposia on HIV, Law and Human Rights. The issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure has been and remains an ongoing issue of concern to people living with HIV, community organizations, service providers and human rights advocates; therefore, it has been the subject of […]

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Protecting the Human Rights of People Living with or at Risk of HIV in the Criminal Law: Submission to the Department of Justice

“The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (“Legal Network”) welcomes this opportunity to provide submissions to the Department of Justice on how the Canadian criminal law should be transformed. “In this submission, the Legal Network sets out its concerns about Canada’s criminal justice system, focusing on (i) the overly broad criminalization of HIV non-disclosure; (ii) the criminalization […]

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Words. Action. Impact. Annual Report 2016–2017

Highlights of our work in Canada and around the world from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017.

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Sex Offender Registries: Fact Sheet

This fact sheet discusses common questions regarding sex offender registries in Canada in the context of the criminal law and HIV non-disclosure. This is general legal information and not legal advice. If you want legal advice specific to your situation, you should talk to a lawyer.

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Exploring Avenues to Address Problematic Prosecutions Against People Living with HIV in Canada

In consultation with the community, federal and provincial governments must take action to limit HIV criminalization and bring the law in line with international recommendations, science and human rights as outlined in the attached brief.

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Privacy and Disclosure for Youth Living with HIV or Hep C: Questions and Answers

This guide is for youth between the ages of 15 and 29 and focuses on some of the factors at play when young people living with HIV or hepatitis C (Hep C) are thinking about telling others about their HIV or Hep C status.

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HIV Criminalization in Canada: Key Trends and Patterns

As part of an effort to contribute to an informed public dialogue on the issue, this short report provides a snapshot of the temporal and demographic patterns of HIV criminalization in Canada from 1989 to 2016. It also updates information on the outcomes of HIV non-disclosure criminal cases.

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Review of Canada’s Compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

“The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network submits this briefing to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in advance of its review of the periodic report of Canada, held during its 17th session from 20 March to 12 April 2017. “In this submission, the Legal Network sets out some selected concerns about the implementation […]

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Women and HIV – “Women and 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. Please note: this info sheet updates the original, which was published in May 2012.

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Letter to Attorney General of Ontario Yasir Naqvi re: HIV and Criminal Law

“On behalf of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, I am writing to you because we are deeply concerned about Ontario’s approach to prosecuting allegations of HIV non-disclosure. We request that you immediately undertake the following actions to put an end to unjust and harmful prosecutions of people living with HIV: 1. Impose an immediate moratorium […]

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HIV CRIMINALIZATION IN CANADA: Current Context & Advocacy

A two-page document briefly describing the current legal landscape of the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada, why the current use of the criminal law is problematic, and what the Legal Network and its partners have been doing to resist the overly broad use of the criminal law against people living with HIV.

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Letter to Minister of Justice Re: Putting an End to Over-Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure

“On behalf of the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization, we would like to thank you for making an important statement on World AIDS Day denouncing the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada.”

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HIV and Human Rights Organizations Welcome Federal Government’s Interest in Ending Unjust HIV Criminalization

TORONTO, December 1, 2016 — The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) welcome today’s statement by Canadian Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould recognizing the ongoing problem of overly-broad, unjust criminalization of people living with HIV. Today, fittingly for World AIDS Day, the federal government has signaled its intent […]

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Legal Network Welcomes Canada’s Commitment To Redress Discrimination Against LGBTQI People

November 15, 2016 — The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement today to appoint a Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 issues who will work with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust and other stakeholders to address the urgent human rights and public health issues outlined in The Just Society Report.

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New Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization Launched

On October 20 and 21, people living with HIV, community workers, lawyers and academics from across the country met in Toronto to officially launch the new Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization. The Coalition was founded by a group of Canadians and representatives of Canadian organizations who met at the HIV Is Not A Crime […]

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Review of Canada’s Compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

“The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network submits this briefing to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in advance of its review of the periodic report of Canada, held during its 65th session from 24 October to 18 November 2016. “In this submission, the Legal Network sets out its concerns about Canada’s […]

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Indigenous Communities and HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Questions and Answers

While the criminal law is a blunt instrument to deal with complex issues such as disclosure or the root causes for HIV in Indigenous communities, it is the law in Canada, and it is important for you to know about it so you can make informed decisions about your sexual life. This brochure has been […]

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Turning Point: Annual Report 2015–2016

Highlights of our work in Canada and around the world from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016.

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Women living with HIV and intimate partner violence: Questions & Answers

This guide is for women, including trans women, who are living with HIV and who experience or are at risk of experiencing violence from their intimate partner. Intimate partner violence can be physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse from someone with whom you have or had an intimate relationship. Abuse by an intimate partner is not […]

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(Français) Compte-rendu des exposés de la journée d’étude du 03-12-2015 «Les enjeux de la pénalisation de la transmission du VIH»

Sorry, this entry is only available in French.

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Consent: Community engagement discussion guide

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, […]

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What Does Consent Really Mean? Rethinking HIV non-disclosure and sexual assault law

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 […]

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HIV stigma and Charlie Sheen’s outing: things to remember

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 […]

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HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Questions and answers for newcomers

This brochure — in five languages — will help newcomers to Canada make informed decisions about disclosing to sexual partners. 

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Consent: HIV Non-Disclosure and Sexual Assault Law

A new documentary film on HIV non-disclosure and sexual assault law — produced by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Goldelox Productions

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Bringing Science to Justice: Beyond the Canadian Consensus Statement on HIV and its Transmission in the Context of Criminal Law

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 […]

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R. v. W.: HIV non-disclosure back at the Supreme Court — but with a twist

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 […]

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Punishing condition: Richard Elliott and Michael Orsini on why the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure is a step backwards

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 […]

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Stay informed: The Legal Network’s new resources on criminalization of HIV non-disclosure

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 […]

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Criminal Law & HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada

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

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Sex, criminal law and HIV non-disclosure (video)

This short, two-part video series addresses the urgent, pressing legal issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada,

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Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada (webinar)

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 […]

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Judging the epidemic: A judicial handbook on HIV, human rights and the law

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 […]

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HIV non-disclosure and criminal law: Implications of recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions for people living with HIV

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 […]

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HIV non-disclosure and the criminal law: A summary of two recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada

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 […]

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HIV Disclosure and the Law: A Resource Kit for Service Providers

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.

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Section 3: Useful case law and guidance (international) (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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 […]

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Section 2: Learning about the law (Canada and other countries) (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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 […]

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Section 1: Understanding your client and your case (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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 […]

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Section 6: The case against overcriminalization (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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 […]

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Section 5: International recommendations (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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. African Commission on Human & People’s Rights, HIV, The Law and Human […]

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Section 4: Understanding the science (Lawyers’ Resource Kit)

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 […]

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Responding 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 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.

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