The BC Civil Liberties Association is deeply dismayed by today’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that expands the possibility of criminal prosecution for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Court’s judgments in R. v. Mabior and R. v. D.C., two cases relating to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, say that even the responsible use of a condom does not protect a person living with HIV from prosecution.
“This decision did not narrow the range of actions that are eligible for criminal prosecution; it has blown the doors wide open. It has turned even responsible sexual behaviour into potentially criminal conduct,” says BCCLA Policy Director Micheal Vonn. “Every person living with HIV in this country is now just one vindictive partner away from criminal prosecution.”
Today’s decision ignores solid science about the nature of the risk of HIV transmission and permits prosecution even where the risk of transmission is negligible, as with proper use of a condom. In 1998, the Supreme Court had ruled that condom-use might sufficiently reduce the risk to avoid prosecution. The ruling will have impacts on the willingness of members of the public to be tested for HIV, creates false confidence among people that their partners will always disclose status, and puts barriers between service providers and people living with HIV preventing frank discussions about prevention.