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

Rights Within Reach: Strategic Plan 2022-2027

The HIV Legal Network promotes the human rights of people living with HIV or AIDS and other populations disproportionately affected by HIV and criminalization, in Canada and internationally. In 2021, we undertook a planning process that would shape the strategic goals and priorities for the organization’s next five years (2022-2027). To do this, we sought … Read more

Rights Within Reach: Strategic Plan 2022-2027, Executive Summary

In 2021, the HIV Legal Network undertook a planning process that would shape the strategic goals and priorities for the organization’s next five years (2022-2027). To do this, we sought the input of a broad range of stakeholders, from partner organizations to people living with and affected by HIV and criminalization, to staff. All identified … Read more

Halt the Harm: Ending and Avoiding Criminalization of HIV, COVID-19, and Other Public Health Challenges in Canada

Canada has long been among the global “hotspots” for prosecuting people accused of HIV non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission of HIV. As of the end of 2020, there have been at least 224 confirmed prosecutions. Most cases have not involved any allegation that HIV was transmitted or that the accused person had any intent to transmit … Read more

Report to the International Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR): Right to health of people living with HIV in Tajikistan

This report was submitted by the HIV Legal Network to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on the right to health of people living with HIV in Tajikistan, where the Criminal Code criminalizes both the exposure of another person to HIV transmission and actual transmission..    

Powerful Together: Annual Report 2021-2022

The path to human rights for all is in view with collaboration, collective advocacy, and community building. To view the 2021-2022 annual report, click here.

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MEDIA STATEMENT: THE HIV LEGAL NETWORK AND HALCO DISAPPOINTED BY R. v. SHARMA SUPREME COURT DECISION

For immediate release – Aussi disponible en français THE HIV LEGAL NETWORK AND HALCO DISAPPOINTED BY R. v. SHARMA SUPREME COURT DECISION The following can be attributed to the HIV Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO).  November 4, 2022 — Toronto, ON —The Supreme Court of Canada today released a … Read more

MEDIA STATEMENT: THE HIV LEGAL NETWORK APPLAUDS R. v. NDHLOVU SUPREME COURT DECISION

THE HIV LEGAL NETWORK APPLAUDS R. v. NDHLOVU SUPREME COURT DECISION For immediate release – The following can be attributed to the HIV Legal Network. October 28, 2022 – Today the Supreme Court of Canada struck down legislation that has, since 2011, required that people convicted of aggravated sexual assault, the offence under which HIV … Read more

Media Statement: Government of Canada Consultations on HIV Criminalization

Statement: Government of Canada Consultations on HIV Criminalization For immediate release. The following can be attributed to the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization. July 27, 2022 — Today, the Government of Canada announced new community consultations as Canada finally looks to reform the misguided law on HIV non-disclosure. The Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV … Read more

Engagement on the Automatic Sequestering of Criminal Records

The HIV Legal Network and HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) have submitted this brief to to Public Safety Canada and Portfolio agencies to provide their perspective on an automatic sequestering of criminal records system (ASCR) as it relates to people living with HIV who are criminalized for HIV non-disclosure. A categorical exclusion of those convicted of aggravated … Read more

MEDIA ADVISORY: PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV, AND OTHER LEADING CANADIAN EXPERTS TO SPEAK AT 10th SYMPOSIUM ON HIV, LAW, AND HUMAN RIGHTS

PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV, AND OTHER LEADING CANADIAN EXPERTS TO SPEAK AT 10th SYMPOSIUM ON HIV, LAW, AND HUMAN RIGHTS  Media Invited to Join Virtual Sessions on HIV Criminalization in Canada  For immediate release Members of the media are invited to attend HIV Criminalization: Challenging Injustice in Canada and Around the World — a free, bilingual (English/French), … Read more

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