HIV and the Law Dialogue Series in Brazil: criminalization of HIV transmissionPublished on Friday, 01 November 2013 16:19
[Originally published as a contribution by Angela Pires Pinto, UNDP Brazil to the UNDP HIV, Health and Development Network News Update.]
“Prejudice and lack of knowledge regarding what AIDS is, this is the real problem”, said Mr. Dani Rudnicki, brazilian lawyer, during the series of dialogues on HIV and the Law that are being held in Brazil. On October 29th-30th, the event gathered members of the Judges Association of Rio Grande do Sul, lawyers and activists to discuss the criminalization of HIV transmission.
Participants expressed concerns on how penal law is been used for criminalizing HIV Transmission or exposure in Brazil. The Brazilian Supreme Court already expressed the view that no one should be convicted or prosecuted under article 121 (attempted homicide) when there is suspicion of HIV transmission (Habeas Corpus case 98.712). However, jurisprudence demonstrates that people still can be prosecuted under other categories of crimes. Also, it makes clear that certain populations are more vulnerable to criminalization.
The debates were held in Porto Alegre, where the Urban Health and Justice Initiative is also implemented. Mr. Veriano Terto (in the picture), Lecturer at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and activist, reminded the audience that Porto Alegre is the number one in the rank of cities with high incidence of AIDS in Brazil and that Porto Alegre AIDS epidemic affects mainly gay men, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs – populations who have been stigmatized and discriminated by society and neglected by state policies.
According to him, the AIDS epidemic in Porto Alegre is also a consequence of silence regarding homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia, racism, gender based violence and poverty. The debate highlighted how stigma and criminalization of HIV transmission or exposure can prevent people from HIV diagnosis and treatment. For Judge Gilberto Schäfer, “it seems that we believe that penal law has a magical function, we expect penal law will solve everything”. But, on the contrary, penal law can be another burden on vulnerable populations and generate even more stigmatizing situations.
The Brazilian National Dialogue on HIV and the Law will be held on November 26th-27th.