Advisory: Community event to highlight harmful impacts of HIV non-disclosure laws
Braden McMillan, University Communications & Marketing, 778.782.3210, email@example.com
Simon Fraser University researcher Angela Kaida will speak on the impacts of HIV non-disclosure laws at Gender, Power and Progress on Display: Community Engaged Research on Health on Sunday, June 2. In partnership with Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada, a panel of experts from Simon Fraser University, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, and the CHIWOS and WATCH studies will lead the event, which takes place one day before the official opening of the Women Deliver 2019 Global Conference in Vancouver—the world’s largest conference on gender equality, and the health, rights and wellbeing of women and girls.
The criminalization of HIV non-disclosure was meant to protect women so why are many women feeling threatened by the law? On June 2, 2019, a community event will include an interactive panel discussion and an art exhibition focusing on the realities of HIV non-disclosure criminalization for women living with HIV in Canada. Panelists will discuss the medical, legal, social and personal impacts of the current laws. Art displays, such as Body Maps by women living with HIV, will illustrate how women living with HIV perceive and respond to the consequences of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure—showcasing their strength and resilience.
Angela Kaida, Canada Research Chair in Global Perspectives in HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, is available to speak to research about the gendered harms created by Canadian laws on HIV non-disclosure, the experiences of women living with HIV in Canada, and the science supporting the prevention of HIV through modern antiretroviral treatment.
Valerie Nicholson, Peer Research Associate (CHIWOS, WATCH) is available to speak to the living experience of what it means to live under the shadow of surveillance as an Indigenous woman living with HIV in Canada, and the activism that is taking place to fight against the overly broad application of the criminal law on cases of HIV non-disclosure.
- Sunday, June 2
- Art exhibit: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Panel event: 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
- ICBC Concourse, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
- 580 West Hastings St., Vancouver
- In Canada, people living with HIV can face criminal charges for not telling their sexual partners what their HIV status is, even if they do not intend to transmit HIV, and even if no HIV transmission actually occurs. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that people living with HIV must disclose their HIV status to a sexual partner before having sex unless they use condoms and have a low viral load (1,500 copies/ml or less). People who do not meet these criteria can face a criminal charge of aggravated sexual assault if they do not tell their sexual partners that they have HIV.
- The criminalization of HIV non-disclosure has harmful and wide-reaching consequences for women living with HIV, often posing a barrier for women to leave an abusive relationship. Research from the CHIWOS study, co-led by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), found that 80 per cent of women living with HIV in Canada have experienced violence in their lives. The WATCH study, led by Simon Fraser University, has found that women report being threatened, assaulted, abandoned, shamed and “outed” as living with HIV after disclosing their HIV status to sexual partners.
- Currently, in cases where a woman living with HIV has been sexually assaulted, she is still legally obligated to disclose her HIV status to the assaulter, regardless of how this may affect her safety.
- Modern antiretroviral treatment stops HIV replication and, therefore, drives HIV to undetectable levels in biological fluids, including blood, semen and cervico-vaginal fluids. As a result, people with HIV on antiretroviral treatment do not transmit the virus to others. This is the concept supporting Treatment as Prevention® (TasP®), pioneered by the BC-CfE. The made-in-BC TasP® strategy—providing earlier and free access to HIV testing and immediate, supported and sustained access to HIV treatment—is key to curbing HIV and ending AIDS.
- HIV non-disclosure laws can contribute to stigma, which can be a barrier to individuals accessing HIV testing, treatment and care.
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