Another trial for HIV transmission in Montreal: PolitiQ demands government action

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In Montreal this December, a case of HIV transmission between two gay men went to trial.[1]  Beyond the doubtful aspects of the case, PolitiQ – Queers Solidaires denounces the scandalous practice of revealing the name of the accused to the press despite his right to medical confidentiality and the presumption of innocence.  This public tarring is not worthy of a democracy and raises questions on journalistic ethics.

Any form of criminalization of exposure to or sexual transmission of HIV is counterproductive and impedes efforts to encourage testing, reduce prejudice against HIV-positive people, and protect public health [2].  This is exactly why the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) [3], and the International AIDS Society are firmly opposed to criminalization, in particular where proof of transmission (which requires phylogenetic tests which are not always reliable [4]), clear fraud, and lack of consent are not established. We may certainly condemn malice, an active desire to harm.  But how can we criminalize behaviour of shared responsibility, mutually agreed upon, knowing the risk?  It is incomprehensible that individuals are being charged today for sexual exposure to or transmission of HIV, when nobody responsible for the contaminated blood transfusions in the 1980s and 90s was ever criminally convicted (despite some 1,200 people infected with HIV and 12,000 with hepatitis C in Canada) [5], all the more so that it is now established that people living with HIV who undergo effective treatment have their risk of transmission vastly reduced or eliminated [6].

But this new case, which deals with two gay men, brings other alarming problems to light.  How can it be that in 2005, a gay man in Montreal who visited saunas was not aware of emergency post-HIV-exposure treatments?  Was this information broadcast sufficiently?  Are gay and bisexual men sufficiently aware of this, when 12.5% of Quebec men who have sex with men live with HIV [7], 22.5% of those are not aware of it [8], and 39.3% of respondents to a 2008 survey of Quebec gay men reported having unprotected anal sex at least once with a casual partner in the last 12 months [9]?  What responsibilities do public places for socialization and sexual contact have for prevention and access to information?

Criminalization of HIV transmission will never replace the effectiveness of prevention.  We must realize that, while people must take responsibility for their health, this can never be entirely individual, but rather collective, social, interpersonal, and generally, shared.  Have we really left behind our fight against prejudice and stigmatization of the most vulnerable in our society.  We must call our social practices back into question and collectively take responsibility for stopping this hypocritical system where everything is regulated by an adversarial, victim/attacker system.

Accordingly, PolitiQ calls on the federal and provincial governments to study a legal framework in which victims can receive recognition and civil damages [10], but that will help – rather than hamper – efforts to prevent HIV transmission, increase the availability of testing, and eliminate prejudice against people living with HIV. [11].

PolitiQ – Queers Solidaires

www.politi-q.info

Références :

[1] Christiane Desjardins. « Un porteur du VIH accusé d’agression sexuelle grave et de voies de fait ». La Presse, 9 décembre 2009 : http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/justice-et-faits-divers/200912/09/01-929372-un-porteur-du-vih-accuse-dagression-sexuelle-grave-et-de-voies-de-fait.php.

[2] Pour plus de précisions : « Journée Mondiale de lutte contre le Sida : après les cercueils, les prisons ! » Collectif PolitiQ, décembre 2009 : http://www.politi-q.info, rubrique « Réflexions ».

[3] UNAIDS POLICY BRIEFS: Criminalization of HIV transmission. August 2008: http://data.unaids.org/pub/BaseDocument/2008/20080731_jc1513_policy_criminalization_en.pdf.

[4] Edwin J. Bernard. “Using phylogenetic analysis and contact tracing to identify HIV transmitters possible, but legally problematic”. Aidsmap, January 23, 2009: http://www.aidsmap.com/en/news/6AE57FD9-D0D4-4EB4-8831-54D080D829C4.asp

and..,

Sébastien Barraud. « L’analyse phylogénétique au centre du cas de Draguignan ». Association Warning, 22 août 2007 : http://www.thewarning.info/spip.php?article228.

[5] Aïda Zenova, Luc Lavigne. « Le scandale du sang contaminé ». Association Dentistes Sans Frontières : http://www.dentist-dentiste.com/canada5.htm.

[6] Vernazza P, Hirschel B, Bernasconi E, Flepp M. (2008). Les personnes séropositives ne souffrant d’aucune autre MST et suivant un traitement antirétroviral efficace ne transmettent pas le VIH par voie sexuelle. Commission fédérale pour les problèmes liés au sida (CFS), Commission d’experts clinique et thérapie VIH et sida de l’Office fédéral de la santé publique (OFSP) : http://www.saez.ch/pdf_f/2008/2008-05/2008-05-089.PDF.

[7] Gilles Lambert. Portrait des ITSS (sauf VIH) chez les hommes québécois ayant des relations sexuelles avec des hommes. États généraux HARSAH, Montréal, octobre 2008, page 36 : http://www.argusquebec.ca/resultats/EtatsgenerauxHARSAH2008.pdf.

[8] Gilles Lambert. Portrait des ITSS (sauf VIH) chez les hommes québécois ayant des relations sexuelles avec des hommes. États généraux HARSAH, Montréal, octobre 2008, page 47 : http://www.argusquebec.ca/resultats/EtatsgenerauxHARSAH2008.pdf.

[9] Alain L, Drouin MC. (2008). Rencontres en ligne et comportement à risque chez les HARSAH au Québec. Rapport du Net Gay Baromètre 2008 québécois, page 11 : http://www.gaystudies.org/NGB2008QC/ACFAS_NGBQC.pdf.

[10] Pour plus de précisions : « Journée Mondiale de lutte contre le Sida : après les cercueils, les prisons ! » Collectif PolitiQ, décembre 2009 : http://www.politi-q.info, rubrique « Réflexions ».

[11] Par exemple, la politique adoptée par le Brésil en la matière serait utile à méditer : Edwin J. Bernard. “Brazil: Health ministry says no to criminalisation following two high-profile prosecutions”. Blogspot (criminal hiv transmission), November 27, 2009: http://criminalhivtransmission.blogspot.com/2009/11/brasil-health-ministry-says-no-to.html.

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