HIV treatment not advanced enough to preclude disclosure, SupremeCourt hears. 628 words, with 104 in optional trim OTTAWA Medical treatment for HIV has not advanced enough topreclude the duty for someone infected with the virus to disclosethat information to a sex partner, the Supreme Court of Canadaheard Wednesday. “We’re not there yet,” Manitoba Crown attorney ElizabethThomson told the nine-justice panel. “The threat of HIV is nottheoretical. The threat is still real.” The top court is reviewing the country’s legislation involvingdisclosure laws following cases in Quebec and Manitoba where twopeople living with the human immunodeficiency virus were acquittedof criminal charges for not revealing their positive statuses.
In a 1998 case, the Supreme Court ruled that those who do not allowan opportunity for informed consent by hiding their viral infectionexposes their sex partners to “significant risk of seriousbodily harm,” even if transmission does not occur. As a result, these HIV-infected patients can be held criminallyliable on a range of charges including assault, aggravated assault,sexual assault, attempted murder or even murder. But public health, legal and civil liberties advocates argue thatsince then, the virus has evolved to the point where someone withHIV is not as infectious if they take regular anti-viralmedication, or use a condom thus lowering the risk oftransmission. Yet the Crown in Manitoba, Quebec and Alberta jointly told thepanel that the Supreme Court should go even further and make fulldisclosure mandatory because HIV remains a disease that is chronic,incurable and has the potential to lead to death. Quebec Crown attorney Caroline Fontaine also added that thecriminal law is meant to protect the public at large, even if itmeans singling out people infected with HIV.
“An HIV-infected person’s sex life cannot be like everyoneelse’s,” she said. According to nationally accepted studies, the risk of transmissionis drastically reduced when an HIV infected person uses a condom ortakes regular medication. Viral load counts, which are used to estimate this risk, can evenbe “undetectable” in an HIV-positive person who takesthese steps. But Fontaine argued, revising the law to reflect someone’sever-changing viral load count is akin to basing it on “movingtargets” and would be “dangerous.” “HIV is a life sentence,” said Alberta Crown ChristineRideout. “At worst, it is still a death sentence.” In a packed courtroom, the panel also heard arguments that currentlaws has forced courts in different provinces to interpret thesedisclosure laws with uncertainty. Samsung Galaxy S2 Chargers
A lawyer for the Canadian HIV/Legal Network told the court the lawshave made people infected with the virus afraid to disclose due tounfair prosecutions and at times, even afraid to have theirconditions diagnosed. Jonathan Shime argued the laws should mirror those of some otherwesternized countries and only apply when transmission orrecklessness can be proven. The group likened the prosecutions to unfairly criminalizing otherdiseases including gonorrhea, syphilis or the whooping cough. It’s also perpetuating further stigma, it said. China Genuine HTC Car Charger
The group also saysthese laws are being misinterpreted to prosecute those with otherdiseases like herpes and hepatitis B and C. The Supreme Court has reserved their decision in the cases. The Canadian HIV/Legal Network estimates that since 1998, 130people living with HIV have been charged by the criminal courts fornon-disclosure. An estimated 26 per cent of those infected are notaware they carry the disease and are the source of more than 50 percent of new cases, according to the network. China USB Car Charger Adaptor
In 2009, Johnson Aziga became the first person in Canada to beconvicted for first-degree murder for not telling a number of womenhe had the virus, including two who later died of AIDS-relatedcancers. An estimated 75,000 Canadians are infected with HIV, with anaverage of 3,300 people newly infected each year. Twitter.com/LindaNguyenPN.