In many countries, including Canada, HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infection is significantly more prevalent among people in prison than among the population as a whole. In part, this is because people from communities that are already disproportionately affected by HIV — including people who use drugs — also face disproportionate rates of incarceration. But it’s also because people in prison often don’t have access to the same health services available to people outside prison — a violation of human rights.
Depending on the setting, the lack of opioid substitution therapy (e.g. methadone), condom distribution, sterile injection equipment and other harm reduction measures are all factors driving the HIV epidemic in prisons. Infections acquired in prison ultimately result in greater public health costs. And, since most prisoners are eventually released back into the community, harm to the health of those in prison also harms public health more broadly.
We work with a range of partners, in Canada and internationally, to improve access in prisons to:
- voluntary and confidential HIV testing;
- services to reduce HIV and other harms (e.g. condom and lubricant distribution, safer tattooing programs, drug dependence treatment, needle and syringe programs); and
- uninterrupted antiretroviral treatment and other medical care.
TORONTO, January 17, 2017 — In a profoundly disappointing move by a government that claims to support harm reduction and “evidence-based policies,” the Government of Canada has withdrawn from a planned mediation, preferring to waste more money on lawyers to fight evidence-based harm reduction services in prisons. Meanwhile, prisoners will continue to needlessly contract preventable […]
“The Legal Network submits this briefing to the World Health Organization’s High-Level Working Group of Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in order to provide inputs on the following areas of concern: (i) the rights of women living with HIV; (ii) the rights of women, children and adolescents who use drugs; (iii) […]
“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 […]
A recent landmark outcome from a legal case — in which the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network intervened, together with the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) and Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) — has secured a number of positive steps for people living with HIV in prison. In June 2016, the parties […]
“We, the undersigned, represent many different communities and interests. But today we speak with one voice, firmly committed to health and human rights, in support of desperately needed prison-based needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) in Canada. The time for PNSPs is now. In Canada, people in prison face far greater risk of HIV and hepatitis […]
Close to 250 Canadian organizations have signed a statement urging federal and provincial governments to immediately implement prisonbased needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) in institutions across the country. Representing the views of a broad cross-section of Canadian civil society, the statement highlights the overwhelming scientific, empirical and human rights rationale for Canada’s governments to act […]
This report is the culmination of a multi-phase, multi-year undertaking that involved broad consultation and primary research to create recommendations for implementing prison-based needle and syringe programs (PNSPs), which provide sterile injection equipment to prisoners who inject drugs and help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV), in Canadian federal prisons. The report highlights […]
TORONTO, February 3, 2016 — A research study has concluded that prison-based needle and syringe programs (PNSPs), which provide sterile injection equipment to prisoners who inject drugs and help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV), are indisputably feasible in Canada and should be implemented in Canadian prisons without delay. Report: On […]
By Mclean Ayearst, legal research volunteer and former Legal Network intern January 13, 2016 The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is part of a coalition which is intervening at the Supreme Court in the case of R. v. Lloyd, the latest challenge to Canada’s harsh and damaging drug laws. In R. v. Lloyd, the Supreme Court […]
“Globally, prisons disproportionately incarcerate people from marginalized communities, who, in turn, are disproportionately affected by conditions such as drug dependence, HIV, and hepatitis C virus. … Section 5(3)(a)(i)(D) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (the “MMS Provision”) mandates that the persons to whom it applies serve a one year prison sentence, whatever their health condition. The […]
Toronto, November 30, 2015 — In a briefing paper released to parliamentarians in advance of World AIDS Day (December 1), the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is calling on the new federal government to take decisive steps to address the HIV epidemic, both in Canada and abroad. Laying out five key areas and recommending associated actions, […]
It is time for Canada to re-commit to the global project of ending HIV, including by basing our response on sound scientific evidence and fundamental human rights principles.
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts being published by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ahead of Election Day on October 19, 2015. Recently, we sent a questionnaire to the five major federal parties, asking their position on key questions related to HIV and human rights. Four out of five parties responded. […]
On October 19, 2015, Canada’s voters have an opportunity to decide what kind of government they want — one that has regard for evidence and upholds health and human rights for all, or one that perpetuates outmoded and ill-informed policies
August 17, 2015 The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is remembering Peter (Pete) Collins, an activist for the health and human rights of people in prison. Pete passed away from cancer on August 13, 2015, in Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario, having been denied compassionate release by the Parole Board of Canada despite many appeals. Pete […]
June 10, 2015 When we call on the Government of Canada to protect prisoners’ right to health by introducing prison-based needle and syringe programs, it is essential that the voices of people living in Canadian prisons be heard. Jarrod, a current federal prisoner, writes about how the Canadian government is failing to protect its prison […]
May 7, 2015 On April 30, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network co-hosted an ancillary event on this topic at the Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR), along with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN), and Ryerson University’s Department of Criminology. There’s a […]
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 document presents evidence and recommendations in support of implementing prison-based needle and syringe programs in Canada.
What do people in prison have to say about the Canadian government’s unwillingness to permit the distribution of clean needles in prison? Between 2008 and 2009, interviews were conducted in person and over the phone in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, resulting in sworn affidavits or testimonials from 50 […]
Harm reduction measures aimed at preventing HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission in prisons are neither new nor groundbreaking in Canada. Prison systems have implemented, to varying degrees, forms of harm reduction such as condoms, bleach and methadone maintenance treatment. However, as of September 2008, no Canadian jurisdiction had established a prison-based needle and […]
The goal of this report is to encourage and aid prison systems, other sectors of government, non-governmental and community organizations, and prisoners themselves in responding to the challenges of HIV and HCV, particularly with respect to prevention. This report is intended to fulfill this goal by increasing: knowledge and understanding of legal and human rights […]