London, ON - In February, RHAC staff and clients participated in #HIVIsNotACrime: a special info session with Ryan Peck, Executive Director of HALCO (HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario), to learn more about the ongoing criminalization of HIV and the fight to change the law. Currently, HIV non-disclosure is a legal risk for criminalization in Canada. Non-disclosure can lead to an aggravated sexual assault charge, the most severe of assault charges in Canada, leading to jailtime and sex offender registration for life. No other medical condition has been criminalized in this way.
Over the past two decades, there have been almost 200 HIV-related criminal convictions in Canada, including convictions where there has been no HIV transmission. Canada’s long history of criminalizing PLHIV is rooted in stigma and outdated science. Research from the global community shows that criminalization is discriminatory, contributes to the stigmatization of PLHIV, and deters people from seeking out HIV testing and treatment, making HIV criminalization both a public health issue and a human rights violation.
People living with HIV (PLHIV) are not criminals. It’s time for HIV laws to catch up with science. HIV criminalization stops people from getting tested. It stops people from disclosing their status. It perpetuates institutional stigma. We cannot end the HIV epidemic without decriminalization.