A Roadmap for Change: Charting the Future of HIV Criminalization Advocacy

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On December 1, 2017, after years of advocacy by community organizations, the federal and Ontario governments recognized the need to limit the “overcriminalization of HIV.” Both governments acknowledged that criminal prosecution for alleged HIV non-disclosure is not warranted where a person living with HIV had a “suppressed viral load” (i.e., less than 200 copies of HIV/ml of blood) because such an individual poses no “realistic possibility” of transmitting the virus—the Supreme Court’s legal test for whether a duty to disclose existed. These developments have the potential to affect the lives of people living with HIV across Canada by curtailing the reach of the criminal law—but much more is still needed.

Co-organized by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Positive Living B.C., both active members of the CCHRC, this ancillary event will analyze the evolving legal reality of HIV criminalization in Canada. It will examine the HIV community’s call for reforms to the Criminal Code in the context of past and current advocacy efforts, and for federal and provincial Attorneys General to develop prosecutorial guidelines to prevent further miscarriages of justice. Presenters at this event will provide an update on the state of play with regard to the science, the law and advocacy efforts, and engage interested researchers, service providers and other members of the community in a discussion about what has been achieved, where things stand currently and what advocacy lies ahead. Attendees will participate in a small-group exercise designed to increase awareness and understanding of how the legal landscape may shift in response to the announcements of World AIDS Day 2017, brainstorm opportunities for further advocacy as well as challenges the community will face along the way (including in relation to possible campaigns for reforming the Criminal Code). CAHR 2018 provides a key opportunity to engage scientific experts, people living with HIV, legal experts and community-based organizations in a discussion of how best to ensure that the law matches the science in the criminal justice system’s treatment of HIV issues.

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