OTTAWA Ontario will no longer criminally prosecute HIV-positive people who don’t disclose their status to sexual partners if there is no realistic possibility of transmission, the province announced on Friday as it marked World AIDS Day. The move comes as the federal government published a study saying that the bar for someone who doesn’t disclose their HIV status to be charged with a criminal offence needs to catch up to science. The Justice Department study pulled together scientific evidence and the current prevalence of HIV in Canada and treatment, and stacked it up against the way the criminal justice system currently handles cases of people who don t disclose their HIV status prior to engaging in sexual activity. While there s no law specifically related to it in the Criminal Code, non-disclosure can lead to assault or sexual assault charges, because it s been found to invalidate a partner s consent current wisdom suggests that if they knew a person had HIV, they wouldn t consent to sexual activity because of the risk of transmission. Current science, however, suggests the risk of transmission is basically negligible if those living with HIV are being treated or taking appropriate precautions, the study concluded. It can, therefore, no longer be assumed that a person living with HIV in Canada is at risk of transmitting it. But the law is not being applied consistently in that regard throughout the country, and the way it is being used needs to take into account a range of factors, including the scientific risks of transmission and degree of blameworthiness. For example, the study noted, not everyone has equal access to HIV treatment or other services to help them manage the risks.
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It can, therefore, no longer be assumed that a person living with HIV in Canada is at risk of transmitting itWhile the study s publication coincidence with World AIDS Day, it also follows a. The milestone saw many advocates raise concerns about the current regime of criminalization the non-disclosure of HIV, noting it had been a year since Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had promised to look into it and consider providing better guidance to prosecutors. But she only has control over federal prosecutions and while she ll use the results of the report to develop guidelines, it remains to be seen whether the provinces will follow suit. The Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization had issued a statement earlier this week, endorsed by more than 655 organizations, urging the Liberal government to go beyond guidelines and also reform the Criminal Code so sexual assault charges can t be used.
The Justice Department report said while criminal law reform could result in greater legal certainty but there are other issues. Law reform impacts the scope of the criminal law, not decisions about how to address cases that fall within that scope, the report said. Moreover, law reform may require enacting HIV-specific provisions, which many stakeholders have opposed on the basis that this would increase the stigma experienced by persons living with HIV. In a statement, Wilson-Raybould said the report provides an evidence-based way to address HIV non-disclosure in the criminal justice system and she ll continue working with the provinces on next steps.
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It clearly demonstrates that our criminal justice system must adapt to better reflect this progress as well as current scientific evidence on HIV-AIDS, she said. The study was published also as the Liberals announced $86. 9 million in projects designed to address AIDS to mark World AIDS Day. Postmedia wants to improve your reading experience as well as share the best deals and promotions from our advertisers with you.
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