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 Context of the Criminal Law.” Their consensus?  In most instances, the per-act possibility of transmitting HIV ranges from low to none.

Today’s announcement reinforces what the Legal Network has been stating for some time: simply put, the law is out of step with current HIV science.

The global Expert Consensus Statement has been endorsed by more than 70 leading scientists from 46 countries, as well as by the International AIDS Society (IAS), the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).  The Legal Network joins civil society organizations from around the world, including our partners in the HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE movement, in welcoming this global scientific consensus.

The Expert Consensus Statement released today provides expert opinion regarding individual HIV transmission dynamics (i.e., the “possibility” of transmission), long-term impact of chronic HIV infection (i.e., the “harm” of HIV), and the forensic application of phylogenetic analysis (i.e., whether or not this can be used as definitive “proof” of who infected whom).

You can learn more about the evidence in the Statement from the short summary and a Frequently Asked Questions document, both available here.

This is a critical global development, and one that holds particular importance for us here in Canada. You may recall that in 2014, dozens of eminent Canadian scientists published a high-level consensus statement to inform our own justice system, which continues to be one of the worst offenders — after the United States and Russia — in misusing the criminal law against people living with HIV.

Today’s Expert Consensus Statement provides another important tool for those of us involved in resisting HIV criminalization. Here at home, the federal, provincial and territorial governments must take note of this latest evidence and work to end this ongoing miscarriage of justice.  Last year, more than 150 community organizations across Canada issued a call to action for limiting unjust prosecutions, including through Attorneys General issuing sound guidance to prosecutors and through changes to the Criminal Code.  Justice Canada issued a report months ago recommending limits on the criminal law — but so far, there has been little action on those recommendations.

Today’s announcement at AIDS 2018 underscores the need for action.  It’s past time for science to be brought to justice.

In Solidarity,

The Legal Network