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 lawyers can provide to sexual assault complainants living with HIV to assist them in navigating these potentially complex situations.

Providing accurate information regarding the potential criminal repercussions for sexual assault complainants living with HIV is critical given that some studies have shown that misinformation and misconceptions of legal standards and duties imposed by criminalization of HIV non-disclosure persists among those living with HIV and are particularly pronounced among certain subsets of women living with HIV. While the law criminalizing non-disclosure of HIV (i.e., the sexual assault provisions of the Criminal Code) purports to protect women, it can negatively affect women living with HIV.