Ottawa Citizen (12.20.11) - Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Canadians living with HIV should no longer face a possible
prison sentence for failing to disclose their infection to
sexual partners, British Columbia health experts said in a new
editorial. People with HIV, unlike people with other STDs, are
being singled out because of stigma and fear, said Dr. Julio
Montaner, director of the British Columbia Center for
Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
A study published this year found that early antiretroviral
therapy for HIV patients reduced the likelihood of sexual
transmission by 96 percent.
Nonetheless, Canada "now ranks among the world leaders" in the
rate of prosecutions of people for allegedly exposing sexual
partners to HIV, Montaner and colleagues M-J Milloy and Thomas
Kerr wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"Do we place a burden on males infected with [human
papillomavirus] to have to disclose every time that they have
a sexual encounter that they have HPV?" asked Montaner in an
interview. "We don't, and that's only one example."
"To put the burden on the person infected with HIV that they
have to disclose when they may be on treatment or using a
condom, or doing both, is really not appropriate," Montaner
said. "We can't have a discourse that, on the one hand, says
things are different now - we can identify HIV, we can treat
it, you can have a near normal life - and, on the other hand,
says if you [do not disclose] to another person we are ready
to put you in jail," said Montaner.
"Let me be clear - I think that people who behave
irresponsibly, they need to be judged accordingly and there
are laws to address those issues. If you mislead somebody, if
you misrepresent your status - but to have a policy that
selectively targets HIV" is discriminatory and discourages
testing and treatment, Montaner said.
The article, "Ending Canada's HIV Trials," was published ahead
of the print edition of the Canadian Medical Association