Justice Department issues new guidelines on prosecution for non-disclosure of HIV status

Posted
December 3, 2018

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has welcomed new moves issued by the federal government to limit what it calls unjust prosecutions of people with HIV.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of Justice and attorney general of Canada, issued the new directives on Saturday, the 30th anniversary of World Aids Day.

Over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure discourages many individuals from being tested and seeking treatment, she said in a news release. 

The federal Justice Department has been working with its provincial counterparts since 2016 to redraft directives around prosecution over HIV non-disclosure.

The new directives state that there should not be prosecution where the person living with HIV has maintained a suppressed viral load (i.e. under 200 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood) because there is no realistic possibility of transmission.

"Quite positive," was how Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network summed up his response to the announcement.

"We've been engaged for many years in many forms of advocacy to try to limit the overly broad use of the criminal law against people living with HIV, so we've been very pleased today to see that those efforts have finally paid off and that the attorney general has issued this directive," Elliott told CBC Toronto.

 

In 2012,  the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that persons living with HIV must disclose their HIV status prior to engaging in sexual activity that poses a "realistic possibility of transmission." The new directives attempt to clarify the law in cases where there is not a reasonable risk of transmission.

Read more: Justice Department issues new guidelines on prosecution for non-disclosure of HIV status