Canadian HIV/AIDS researchers decry HIV prosecutions as tactic to curb spread of infection
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, December 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A team of HIV/AIDS researchers from B.C. have called upon the Canadian legal system to stop prosecuting people infected with the HIV virus for failing to disclose their sickness to their sexual partners.
The team, directed by Dr. Julio Montaner, claims that current HIV treatment can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by as much as 96%.
“The evidence is consistent with the consensus statement from the Swiss Federal Commission for HIV/AIDS that people living with HIV/AIDS on effective HAART treatment for six months without other genital tract infections pose a negligible risk of transmitting HIV and therefore these people should not be found guilty for exposing sexual partners to HIV,” said the researchers.
The report, titled “Ending Canada’s HIV trials,” appeared today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Existing Canadian jurisprudence passes the sentence of ‘murder’ rather than the lesser charge of ‘manslaughter’ on HIV infected persons whose failure to disclose the disease to sexual partners results in their death.
For example, Johnson Aziga from Hamilton, Ontario was charged and convicted of first-degree murder in 2009 for having sex without a condom with 11 women and not telling them of his HIV infection. A majority of these women became infected with HIV, two of whom eventually died from the disease.
The HIV/AIDS researchers argue however that nondisclosure of HIV prosecutions discourage people who may have the disease from getting tested.
“Prosecutions put the life of people living with HIV/AIDS at risk, increase the risk of HIV transmission and health care costs, and ultimately place the public at higher risk,” the authors argue.
“It is time to embrace the scientific evidence, recognize the ability of HAART to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV, and do away with criminal prosecutions for HIV nondisclosure.”
According to a 2009 survey by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the number of people with HIV (including AIDS) infections in Canada continues to rise, with 57,000 cases in 2005 to approximately 65,000 cases in 2009 (a 14% increase).
An estimated 2,300 to 4,300 new HIV infections occur each year in Canada. Men who have sex with men comprised the greatest proportion (44%) of new HIV infections in 2009. Today, an estimated 78,000 Canadians are infected with the virus.