FOCUS ON CRIMINALIZATION
Public lecture by HIV-positive judge from South Africa's top court
kicks off sold-out Toronto symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights
TORONTO, June 9, 2009 - Judges are used to handing down decisions from the bench
on sensitive, complex issues, but this Friday, at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, a worldrenowned
judge will address a particularly controversial topic that has made headlines in
recent months: the criminalization of people who have exposed others to HIV.
The public lecture by Justice Edwin Cameron of South Africa's Constitutional Court
launches the 1st Annual Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights, hosted by the
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. More than 160 researchers, lawyers and community
activists are registered to attend.
The issue strikes a personal chord for Justice Cameron, who made headlines himself in
1999 when he came out publicly as HIV-positive, a courageous gesture that especially
resonated in his home country and across Africa, which has borne the brunt of the global
epidemic and its twin shadows, denial and shame. To date, he remains the only
government official in Africa to declare his or her HIV-positive status.
The next day following his public lecture, Justice Cameron will chair a panel at the
Symposium titled "Challenging criminal charges for HIV transmission and exposure."
Participants include leading criminal defence lawyers Marlys Edwardh and Lucie Joncas,
advocate Michaela Clayton from Namibia, Angel Parks from the AIDS Committee of
Toronto, as well as Professor Barry Adam from the University of Windsor, who is leading
the first Canadian study on the impact of these criminal prosecutions.
"We are so pleased that Justice Cameron will be our keynote speaker," says the Legal
Network's Executive Director, Richard Elliott. "He is a thoughtful and passionate speaker.
His address will go beyond the headlines and examine more carefully the serious legal
and public health policy considerations of criminalization."
Under Canadian criminal law, a person living with HIV may be guilty of a crime for not
disclosing his or her HIV-positive status before engaging in activities that risk exposing
another person to HIV. In Canada alone, charges have been laid against more than 90
people living with HIV. In recent years, the Legal Network has tracked an increase in the criminalization of HIV exposure and has publicly expressed its concerns about the
negative consequences of the ever-widening use of the criminal law with respect to HIV.
About the 1st Annual Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights
In response to the need for more information and debate, the Legal Network launched
this annual forum for policy-makers, legal professionals, health researchers, activists, and
people living with or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. The day-long event features panel
discussions and training workshops on advancing Canadian law and policy, based on
scientific evidence and human rights principles (www.aidslaw.ca/symposium). Topics
include: prisoners' right to HIV prevention, treatment and care; Canada's law on global
access to affordable medicines; challenging criminal charges for HIV transmission and
exposure; and emerging issues in Canada's drug policy.
About the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (www.aidslaw.ca) promotes the human rights of
people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and internationally, through
research, legal and policy analysis, education, and community mobilization. The Legal
Network is Canada's leading advocacy organization working on the legal and human
rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.
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Details for Justice Cameron's Public Lecture:
Friday, June 12, 2009 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
130 Queen St. West, Toronto
Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa will present a public
lecture on "Criminalization of HIV Transmission and Human Rights"
Notes: Prior to Justice Cameron's public lecture, the Legal Network and Human Rights
Watch will be presenting Awards for Action to two distinguished winners. Also, following
Justice Cameron's presentation, there will be a cocktail reception.
Details for the 1st Annual Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights:
Saturday, June 13, 2009 - 9:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel
475 Yonge St. (between Wood St. and Alexander St.), Toronto
Full schedule and list of presenters: www.aidslaw.ca/symposium
For further information, including a detailed biography and interviews:
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Phone: +1 416 595-1666 ext. 228
Mobile: +1 647 248-2400