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23 August 2017, 14:15
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Criminalisation of people on HIV treatment should be revised

Criminalisation of people on HIV treatment should be revised - picture 1

Current HIV medications became so efficient that people living with HIV receiving antiretroviral medication and having the virus in their bodily fluids at undetectable levels are no longer infectious.  Such fact contradicts with stigmatising laws that criminalising HIV non-disclosure both those on treatment and those who are not. Patient advocate organisations and activists in many countries promote initiating a revision of obsolete laws and practices.

Our society has come a long way in the last three decades. Scientists have developed a lot of therapeutic agents, and HIV biology has been explained and understood as well as insights on human sexual behaviour have been developed much.

Now, antiretroviral therapy (ARV) allowing HIV positive people to have a near normal lifespan and even more be confident that they are not "contagious" because HIV meds suppress the virus and body fluids exchange becomes a non-risky practice.  Last month, the global medical and scientific community at the International AIDS Society HIV research conference in Paris announced – "Unequivocally – that an undetectable" HIV viral load means HIV is untransmittable. So applying discriminating laws to HIV non-disclosure cases is becoming outrageous without considering the vastly different risk of HIV transmission.

The resulting fear of criminalisation HIV may keep people from getting tested. If a person does not know their HIV status, they can not go on treatment, which is critical for suppressing the virus and preventing further transmissions.

The cases of HIV criminalization, unfortunately, happen quite often. Germany, Canada, Russia, USA, UK - some cases of designful virus transmission had happened in many countries.  In the USA a human could face up to 30 years of prison for premeditated HIV transmission, and in Russia up to 3 years. So designful HIV transmission could be treated by the law like “grievous bodily harm” or there could be a separate part of the law, especially for the virus.

Towards the United Nations’ new strategy to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030 to be effective, it is critical that people feel safe getting tested for HIV and initiating HIV treatment. Stigma and discrimination directly weaken our ability to achieve UN objectives.

Author: Olga Moiseeva

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