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ACTION CAMPAIGN: Condemn the criminalization of HIV

Activism Archives

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Analysis: The re-criminalization of queer sex

When governments commit to prevention and education campaigns, and when people commit to open discussion about risks and realities, HIV transmission rates drop drastically and stigma and discrimination ebbs. But over the last few years, even as our understanding of the pathology of the epidemic and the virus itself grows, the media has moved to more sensational and simplistic coverage in an effort to attract the largest possible audience. Therapies have prolonged lives, leading people to believe HIV is not the serious problem it once was. Governments have changed priorities, and Canadians and queer people have failed to adjust their attitudes to keep pace with the changing times. 
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Video: The story of an HIV convict

Ryan Handy, the man convicted of aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose his HIV-positive status before having unprotected sex with a man who picked him up online, was sentenced on Mar 27, 2008 to serve eight months in jail. 

Read more and watch a video of his story

News: Murder charges are now on the table in Canada

The growing criminalization of HIV could mean increasingly harsh treatment for those convicted of spreading the virus.

Tim McCaskell, the cofounder of AIDS Action Now, says the current first-degree murder trial of Johnson Aziga — a Hamilton man charged in the deaths of two women after infecting them following consensual sex — could be an alarming precedent.

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Editorial: Wente overboard: reactionary harangue is common nonsense

If you're not sure why HIV is on the rise, ask Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, because she knows. The answer is selfish, horny people with HIV, hell-bent on getting their rocks off at any cost.

Wente made waves a few months ago with a week-long attack on harm reduction for drug users. Now, in "Do the Right Thing: Disclose," she weighs in the sex lives of people with HIV.

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News: HIV disclosure can be dangerous, forum hears

Disclosing your HIV-positive status can mean exposing yourself to discrimination and legal risk, a forum on HIV disclosure and criminalization was told Nov 27.

"The positive person is always at risk," said Maureen, an HIV-positive woman who didn't use her last name. "Men will have sex knowing the woman is HIV-positive then blame her if they get infected. If anything happens I am guilty. There's no one else in the bed to prove I made him wear a condom."

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News: More countries criminalizing HIV

More countries are making the transmission of HIV a crime, a trend that experts say will hamper prevention efforts.

According to a report released Nov 13, 2008 by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), 58 countries have laws that punish people for transmitting HIV, including Canada. Another 35 countries are considering similar laws, says the report. But criminal law has been shown to be an ineffective HIV prevention tool. The IPPF report hammers this point home.

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Video: The story of an HIV convict

Ryan Handy, the man convicted of aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose his HIV-positive status before having unprotected sex with a man who picked him up online, was sentenced on Mar 27, 2008 to serve eight months in jail. 

Read more and watch a video of his story
 

Editorial: 2008 will be the year of criminalization

The ongoing criminalization of HIV and queer sex gained ominous momentum in 2007 and will likely come to a head in 2008.

In November a London, Ontario man was convicted of aggravated sexual assault for having unprotected sex with a man without telling him that he is HIV-positive. The convicted man says he has struggled with mental illness for much of his life and was suffering from an emotional crisis when he met his accuser.

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News: Sex, lies and legal red tape – Examining the criminalization of HIV

More than 90 HIV/AIDS professionals gathered in downtown Vancouver, Mar 22, 2007 to examine how law enforcement and public health organizations deal with the disclosure of HIV status.

"The idea originally came out of a concern about the seemingly increasing criminalization of people living with HIV disease," says William Booth, executive director of AIDS Vancouver and conference moderator. "It seemed to me that this issue was so emotional — some of us are the good guys and some of us are the bad guys — when, of course, it's much more nuanced than that."

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Editorial: Decriminalize HIV

In February 2006 a 28-year-old Vancouver man was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with two men after denying that he is HIV-positive.

In both cases it is alleged that the accused was the receptive partner — the bottom. Neither of the so-called victims subsequently tested HIV-positive. If convicted of aggravated sexual assault — the same crime as if he had coldcocked and raped two people — the accused young man, who is already living with the stigma of HIV, could face a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. His trial will likely happen this year.

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Editorial: Criminalizing HIV may only fuel the epidemic

Want to know a great way to increase the spread of HIV? Criminalize it.

In Canada, a person with HIV can be put in jail if they have unprotected sex with someone who didn't ask about their HIV status. This means that HIV-negative people have the power to seek prosecution of HIV-positive people over sexual choices they made together, even if no HIV transmission occurs at all.

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