Unlocking HIV Documentary (Trailer)
A Hamilton based Media Arts Project looking at the criminalization of HIV
Published on Nov 3, 2013 - In Canada, people living with HIV can be charged with a criminal offense, if
they do not disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners before they engage in physical contact. Canada is now the number 2 country in
the world for incarcerating people living with HIV on charges related to the transmission and exposure of the virus.
There are now at least 54 people in jail as a result of the Canadian judicial system's war against people living with HIV.
The United Nations and public health experts around the world acknowledge that the criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission is
poor public health policy and only serves to fuel HIV. Despite this, our country has the shameful record of being only second to the
United States in criminalizing people living with HIV.
The subject matter of this project is of particular relevance to Hamilton. On April 4, 2009, Johnson Aziga, a Ugandan-born
Canadian man living in Hamilton, became the first person to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder in Canada for spreading HIV
that resulted in the death of two women. Aziga was sentenced by a Hamilton Superior Court jury, to life imprisonment with no
possibility of parole for 25 years, the mandatory sentence in Canada for a conviction of first-degree murder.
The implications of this case four years later are still felt by people living with HIV and the local community-based
HIV/AIDS organization in the Hamilton, Halton, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant regions. The local media ran several sensationalist
articles during the time of Aziga's arrest until his conviction. Recently, the Hamilton Spectator ran a headline stating that
fellow inmates refuse to eat food prepared by Aziga (prison cook) for fear that he might "spit" in the food; therefore,
transmitting the disease.
The decision to try Aziga was criticized by Richard Elliott, deputy director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, who
argued the decision may lead to a "dominant impression out there of people living with HIV as potential criminals, which is not an
accurate or fair representation."
The Facing +Disclosure project will link four practicing media artists with four people living with HIV that are connected
with The AIDS Network and from diverse communities in a collaborative experience. Through the ongoing discourse between the
community-based HIV/AIDS organization, the people living with HIV (PHAs) and the artists reinforces the collaborative
nature of the project. The collaboration will explore the challenges of HIV disclosure law for people living with
HIV and for the community at large. Each pair, (one artist and one PHA) will collaboratively produce an
independent video that will be 2 to 5 minutes in length, responding to the issues from a personal
artistic perspective. As well as exploring the stigmatization and criminalization of the illness
and the impact on both the community participant and the artist, the Facing +Disclosure
project will advance the understanding and practice of independent community media arts.
The HIV community in Hamilton is a diverse community, consisting of gay men (young and old), women, people who inject drugs,
sex workers, people from the African, Caribbean and Black communities and people from countries where HIV is endemic. Each individual
within these populations have their own framework for understanding, coping and acting on the challenges that they face.
The four media artists involved are Nicholas Flood, Toronto, Richard Fung, Toronto, John Caffery, Toronto/Hamilton, and
Thea Faulds, Hamilton. The artists involved are equally representative of diverse communities, age, experience levels and cultural
backgrounds. All of them come from a variety of institutions and all of them have some form of direct personal connection
with the HIV epidemic.
Visit http://www.unlockinghiv.com for more information.
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