Community Info Session
- Supreme Court Ruling on HIV Disclosure
Legal Review & the Practical, Emotional & Mental Impact on Individuals and our Community.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
4:30pm - 6:30pm
519 Community Centre Ballroom
Hosted by HALCO, PASAN, PWA and members of the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law & HIV Exposure (CLHE)
Community members, people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, health service providers are invited. This will provide an early
interpretation of Friday's important Supreme Court ruling on HIV disclosure and to provide a safe, community space for discussion
and support. Our understanding of the full impact of this case, its impact on our lives and the required next steps for
community and advocates will continue to unfold over the coming weeks. However, it was felt to be critical that an
early opportunity be provided for community to meet and increase our understanding, clarify the confusing and
conflicting media reports and begin to create a community understanding.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network Response
UNJUST SUPREME COURT RULING ON CRIMINALIZATION OF HIV MAJOR STEP BACKWARDS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS
October 5, 2012 - As a coalition of interveners, we are shocked and dismayed
at today's ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that says that even the responsible use of a condom does
not protect a person living with HIV from rampant prosecution. The Court's judgments in R. v. Mabior
and R. v. D.C., two cases relating to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, are a cold
endorsement of AIDS-phobia. They will stand as an impediment to public health and
prevention, and add even more fuel to stigma, misinformation and fear. And they
place Canada once again in shameful opposition to standards set out by
international human rights bodies, UNAIDS and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law.
In its decisions, the Court purports to uphold its own 1998 decision standard that a "significant risk" of
HIV transmission is required in order to trigger the legal duty to disclose. But this is an illusory limit
to the criminal law. It blatantly ignores solid science and opens the door to convictions for
non-disclosure even where the risk of transmission is negligible, approaching zero. Even in
1998, when there was less science quantifying the small risks of HIV transmission than
there is today and less effective treatment for HIV, the Supreme Court had ruled that
condom-use might sufficiently reduce the risk below "significant" for the purpose
of the criminal law. Yet now, 14 years later, despite significant advances in
scientific knowledge, the Supreme Court decides condoms are not enough. In
practice, today's ruling means that people risk being criminally
prosecuted even in cases where they exercised responsibility
and took precautions, such as using condoms - which are 100% effective when used properly.
Adding to continued injustice, the Court's actions will seriously undermine public health efforts.
Criminalizing HIV non-disclosure in this way creates another disincentive to getting an HIV test
and imposes a chill on what people can disclose to health professionals and support workers.
People living with HIV need more health and social supports; they don't need the constant
threat of criminal accusations and possible imprisonment hanging over their heads.
Similarly, people not living with HIV need to be empowered to accept
responsibility for their own health, and not proceed under a false
sense of security that the criminal law will protect them from
infection. In short, the Court's actions will have deleterious effects not only on the lives and health
of people living with HIV, but on all of us, through fostering a climate of fear and recrimination.
While we welcome the Court's acquittal of D.C. - an acknowledgement of at least one miscarriage of justice - the onus must now fall to
those protecting the health and defending the dignity of people living with HIV. We also call on Crown prosecutors to use their
discretion and refuse to be complicit in injustice just because the Court gave them the power to do so. It is not in the
public interest to prosecute people living with HIV where condoms have been used or where a person has a low or
undetectable viral load. Prosecutions in such cases will only perpetuate misinformation, pander to prejudice
and undermine efforts at HIV prevention and treatment.
Signed, the interveners:
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)
Positive Living Society of British Columbia (Positive Living BC)
Canadian AIDS Society (CAS)
Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA)
Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black Cap)
Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN)
For more information and to schedule interviews, please contact:
Director of Communications
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
416-595-1666 ext. 228
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