HIV Criminalization

Overview

People living with HIV are being convicted of serious criminal offences and sentenced to years in prison for not disclosing their HIV status to their sexual partners — even when there is little to no risk of transmission. This misuse of the criminal law is often done in the name of public health. But in reality, 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 precedent-setting cases and providing support to defence attorneys and people living with HIV;
  • engaging relevant policy-makers in developing 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.

The Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada

This briefing paper describes 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 we've been doing to resist the use of the criminal law against people living with HIV. Read more

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

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. Read more

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. Read more

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PublicationsNews

Statement: A human rights–based approach to HIV self-testing

HIV self-testing is a powerful tool, particularly if delivered through an approach that meets people where they are. Making self-tests available can promote uptake by offering people privacy, independence, and control as they decide when and where to take an HIV test. By increasing access and empowering individuals, HIV self-testing is an innovative way to … Read more

FULL REPORT: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF ARTICLE 157 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS

Download the full Russian language report:

Practical applications of Article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus

Article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus criminalizes HIV exposure and transmission. Despite a reduction in the number of criminal cases brought under this article, Belarus remains among the world’s leading countries in prosecutions of people living with HIV. Russian Version

A gender-centred dialogue on Alternative Justice Responses to HIV non-disclosure criminalization

On June 20th, 2022, the HIV Legal Network, in collaboration with Communities, Alliances & Networks and the Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative, hosted a roundtable about alternative justice responses to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada.

Submission to the Government of Canada Consultation on Reforming the Criminal Law regarding HIV Non-Disclosure

The HIV Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario submitted a response to the Government of Canada’s consultation on reforming the criminal law regarding HIV non-disclosure on January 10th, 2023.

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MEDIA RELEASE: TODAY MARKS INTERNATIONAL HIV IS NOT A CRIME AWARENESS DAY. PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV IN CANADA DESERVE BETTER.

TODAY MARKS INTERNATIONAL HIV IS NOT A CRIME AWARENESS DAY. PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV IN CANADA DESERVE BETTER. The Government of Canada has long promised law reform in this country. Why are we still waiting? For immediate release The following can be attributed to the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization Wednesday, February 28, 2024 … Read more

Canada Must Take a Human Rights-Based Approach to HIV Self-Testing

On International Testing Week, more than 40 organizations from across Canada sign statement of support This statement can be attributed to the HIV Legal Network, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario and the Canadian AIDS Society. Toronto, ON (November 23, 2023) – Today, more than 40 health and human rights organizations across the country have … Read more

Summary of R. v. J.A., 2023 ONCA 12

Introduction In January 2023, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision in the case of R. v. J.A., concerning the appeal of a man who had been convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, ten counts of aggravated sexual assault, and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault in relation to HIV non-disclosure. … Read more

Summary of R. v. J.M., 2022 ONCA 615

In August 2022, the Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned a woman’s conviction for one count of aggravated sexual assault in relation to HIV non-disclosure in the case of R. v. J.M. The initial 2013 conviction stemmed from a single act of condomless vaginal sex that occurred in 2011, at a time when the appellant … Read more

MEDIA STATEMENT: HIV LEGAL NETWORK CELEBRATES 30 YEARS WITH DIGITAL GROWTH AND A NEW PODCAST

Toronto, ON (April 25, 2023) — This year, the HIV Legal Network celebrates its 30th anniversary. Founded in December 1992 as the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the organization has spent the past three decades advocating to protect the human rights of all people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as those … Read more

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