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Saturday 10 October 2009

Canada's HIV Laws - But it Takes Two to Tango

Posted in: HIV
By Craig Young - 7th May 2009

In Canada, there appears to be an alarming tendency toward quasi-criminalisation of HIV positive folk, based on one-sided and draconian criminal law.

"It takes two to tango" - Assume nothing and protect yourself

In June 2006, Matt Mills brought this appalling situation to the attention of the rest of the LGBT world when he blew the whistle on one ghastly case where an HIV+ bottom was charged with "aggravated sexual assault." Uh huh. I suppose that someone held a gun to the heads of both of the (still negative) gay male tops involved and forced them to have unprotected sex? I have always said this and always will say it - what about the personal responsibility that HIV negative gay guys ourselves have to protectourselvesfrom infection? In Canada, Mills explains that "significant risk" and "reckless behaviour" are interpreted in a worryingly broad manner.

Not so in New Zealand, fortunately. I am aware of three relevant cases. In one of them, a HIV+ migrant was judged criminally responsible for having unprotected sex with women. In another, an intellectually disabled HIV+ gay man couldn't understand that his continued unprotected sex was placing his partners at risk, and had to be quarantined as a result. In another, a positive man was acquitted after using condoms but not telling his female partner about his HIV status. In the latter case, he was judged to have taken adequate precautions to protect his partner. In fact, I suspect that most positive men are highly responsible when it comes to protecting their partners. As for other negative men, look at barebackers. What possible excuse can its negative participants have for deliberately engaging in unprotected sex, knowing that they could be exposed to HIV? It takes two to tango.

Why should our positive brothers and sisters have to live constantly with the fear that a vindictive ex-partner will haul them before the courts and expose them to stigma on the basis of health background and disclosure of otherwise confidential medical information? It's time that HIV- gay men explicitly acknowledged that some of us are irresponsible when it comes to prevention, and resolve to do something about it, personally and collectively.

Craig Young - 7th May 2009

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