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

Learn more:

PublicationsNews

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.

Special Considerations for Advising Sexual Assault Complainants Living with HIV

This paper is devoted to issues faced by a group of individuals with a unique experience: sexual assault complainants living with HIV who could potentially be transformed from complainants to accused persons. In particular, this paper discusses some of the factors that arise in these situations and aims to provide some guidance on the advice … Read more

Legal Network News – December 5, 2022

Advocacy Alert In October, the Government of Canada announced the start of their consultation on HIV criminalization, as Canada finally looks to reform the misguided and harmful law on HIV non-disclosure in this country. This is, we hope, a first step toward concrete action on law reform. Your participation in the government consultation is crucial. … Read more

Legal Network News – December 1, 2022

Today, the HIV Legal Network marks World AIDS Day by joining with the United Nations in a call to governments around the world to reform laws, policies, and practices that create and exacerbate the stigma faced by people living with HIV. This year’s theme is “Equalize” and we are recommitting ourselves to working to challenge laws that oppress … Read more

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WORLD AIDS DAY 2022: IT’S TIME TO EQUALIZE, IN CANADA AND BEYOND

November 30, 2022 — Today, the HIV Legal Network marks World AIDS Day by joining with the United Nations (UN) in a call to governments around the world to reform laws, policies, and practices that create and exacerbate the stigma faced by people living with HIV. With this year’s theme being “Equalize,” we are focused … Read more

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 Criminalization … 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

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