Via the Vancouver Sun, by Peter McKnight.

It sounds like the synopsis of a B-movie: Thanks to the long arm of the law, the world is once again safe from The Attack of the Killer HIV-people.

Safe from Johnson Aziga, the Ontario man who had sex with more than a dozen women without informing them of his HIV-positive status. Several of the women contracted HIV, including two who subsequently died, which led to Aziga being declared a dangerous offender and handed an indeterminate sentence earlier this week.

And safe from the 17-year-old Edmonton girl who was charged this week with two counts of aggravated sexual assault after allegedly having sex with two men without informing them of her HIV-positive status. The girl had been the subject of an urgent police bulletin, which led to the worldwide publication of her name, picture and health status. Aside from painting a rather ghoulish picture of people living with HIV, such unusual cases inevitably send the message that the best way to handle HIV-non-disclosure is through the criminal law.

Police forces across the country seem to have got the message, given the increase in the number and severity of charges laid for HIV-non-disclosure in recent years. Well over 100 HIV-positive people across Canada – and at least 14 in B.C. – have now been charged with offences ranging from assault to first-degree murder.

Courts, too, have been enthusiastic in prosecuting cases of non-disclosure, with defendants receiving everything from suspended sentences to, in Aziga’s case, an indeterminate and potentially lifelong sentence of imprisonment.

This enthusiasm for criminal prosecution exists despite – or perhaps because of – uncertainty about the disclosure obligations of HIV-positive people. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that individuals are under a legal duty to reveal their HIV-positive status before engaging in sex that poses a “significant risk” of HIV transmission, but what constitutes a significant risk remains unclear.

Read the rest here.
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