Q: What is HIV criminalisation?
HIV criminalisation describes the unjust application of the criminal law to people living with HIV based on their HIV status – either via HIV-specific criminal statutes, or by applying general criminal laws exclusively or disproportionately against people with HIV.
Usually these laws are used to prosecute individuals aware they are living with HIV who allegedly did not disclose their HIV status prior to sexual relations (HIV non-disclosure), are perceived to have potentially exposed others to HIV (HIV exposure) or thought to have transmitted HIV (HIV transmission).
By Emeka Anuforo
As part of efforts to protect the rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Network of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (NEPHWAN) have launched a major effort to check workplace discrimination of HIV.
The stakeholders have pledged to work together to fight for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and ensure that they are no longer subjected to rejection and discrimination.
The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a woman (known as ‘S.F.’) who did not tell her sexual partner that she was living with HIV before engaging in sex.
At her original trial she was found guilty of exposing another to HIV under Mo. Rev. Stat. §191.677 and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. The law does not require actual transmission or even actual exposure, and there is no condom use or viral load defence.
Yesterday, the Court issued an unanimous opinion written by Judge Mary Russell (pictured) dismissing the woman’s challenge which argued that the law infringes on her right to privacy and to free speech.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted an evidence-informed resolution on HIV criminalisation in the United States.
It was developed with feedback from the APA Committee on Legal Issues and the HIV Medicine Association – who themselves issued a Policy Statement on HIV Criminalization in 2015 – along with the Sero Project and The Center for HIV Law and Policy.
According to the background document:
Alternatives to conviction or punishment, where appropriate, can be pursued by countries under the international drug control conventions, the head of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, stressed today at a side event on the margins of the 59th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
Mr. Fedotov highlighted the need to consider alternatives to imprisonment as a means of "helping to address prison overcrowding, and potentially prevent the recruitment of vulnerable individuals in detention by criminals and terrorists."