Canada Cracks Down on HIV Disclosure

Our neighbors to the north aren’t known for their strict judicial system, which is why Canada’s recent zero tolerance policy for HIV non-disclosure is making news headlines worldwide.

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We all know how morally and ethically important it is to discuss STD status with our current, past, and future partner(s), but in some cases, failing to do so has put some Canadian residents in prison and in one case, was even cause for immediate deportation from the country.

Some people say this has been a long time coming. Both men and women have been convicted with failure to disclose, which has lead to death in the case of some uninformed partners. My question is, doesn’t self protection and personal accountability come into play here? Yes, HIV should absolutely be disclosed, along with any other transmittable health problems.

However, in the event that someone could be lying, which happens all too often, why wouldn’t a condom be the solution? The same free will that can be used to tell or not tell a partner about HIV can be used to put on a condom. Proceedings regarding unprotected sex became so commonplace, that a new term for unsafe sex was coined by the Canadian parliament– “condomless sex.”

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But, is there really enough dishonesty and lies of omission between sexual partners in Canada that the government has to get involved? Yes, unfortunately so.

Over 146 cases of non-disclosure have gone to court, and in each of these cases, the HIV defendant was found guilty. Sometimes, even if a condom was used and the victim has not tested positive for the transmission of HIV, assault charges were still pressed and judgment still reigned down.

In the US, 34 of our states have a non-disclosure law when it comes to HIV. But, none of these states have ever had to bring their trials to the level of Supreme Court rulings. In Canada, rulings since the early 1990s have been in full swing.

In the early 90s, the Toronto Public Health division even ordered one man to stop having sex altogether after infecting 3 women with HIV and another man was jailed indefinitely in 1998 under the Dangerous Offender Act after having condomless sex with 11 women, one of which died before the trial, adding murder to his list of HIV non-disclosure convictions. In 2006, the first Canadian charges were made against a mother for passing HIV to her son.

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Issues such as immigration, sexism and racism have stemmed even more heated debates about this topic. Some people say that too many of the cases have been against people from other nations (non-citizens), some claim there is a disproportional amount of black residents being charged. Others claim that since only 14 out of the 16 women charged with non-disclosure have been convicted, there is a gender bias.

The LGBT community has expressed its resistance to this new movement, stating that if people are afraid to be convicted, they are less likely to get tested for HIV. If ignorance can keep you out of jail and in the land that you love, I feel like this is a valid point that needs further examination by the Canadian government.

Plus, with new viral suppressants on the rise, like Truvada and a new intravaginal ring, the viral load of HIV positive people versus HIV negative people is becoming harder and harder to tell apart. People undergoing treatment for HIV may not have the same transmission rate as those who are unaware of their status, or choose not to treat their HIV.

But nonetheless, the number of AIDS patients is still rising, and the number individuals who have been tested and reported as being HIV positive hit a total of 35 million just last year.

Obviously, when it comes to such a heated topic, everyone has an opinion. My simple opinion is this: be honest and wear a condom. Could getting tested regularly, choosing to disclose STDs before sexual contact occurs, and regularly wearing condoms, solve all of these particular problems? Absolutely.

Source: [Slate] [AIDS.gov]

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