Canada: Persons With Low HIV Infection Don’t Have to Disclose If Using Condoms
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday that people with low levels of HIV who use condoms during sex do not need to disclose their condition to sexual partners.
In a 9-0 ruling, the court said it was reflecting the medical advances in treating the virus that causes AIDS.
The court first ruled on the issue in 1998, saying that people with HIV must inform their sex partners of their condition or face a charge of aggravated sexual assault. That charge carries a maximum life sentence.
The ruling was a partial victory for HIV/AIDS activists who have argued that the 1998 ruling sowed confusion and was applied unevenly. They wanted the decision struck down, but argued that, in the alternative, the court should at least refine that ruling to reflect new medical advances.
"Fourteen 14 years later, despite significant advances in scientific knowledge, the Supreme Court decides condoms are not enough," the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network said in a statement Friday.
"In practice, today’s ruling means that people risk being criminally prosecuted even in cases where they exercised responsibility and took precautions, such as using condoms, which are 100 percent effective when used properly. Adding to continued injustice, the Court’s actions will seriously undermine public health."
The court on Friday did not set a level for acceptably low HIV levels, but offered a description, saying that the transmissibility of HIV is proportional to the viral load (level of HIV in a patient’s blood stream) and that a patient’s HIV levels shrink significantly when undergoing antiretroviral treatment.
"The viral load of an untreated HIV patient ranges from 10,000 copies to a few million copies per milliliter. When a patient undergoes antiretroviral treatment, the viral load shrinks rapidly to less than 1,500 copies per milliliter (low viral load), and can even be brought down to less than 50 copies per milliliter (undetectable viral load) over a longer period of time. "
Forced to Disclose Even Using Condoms?
The Supreme Court ruled on two separate cases from Quebec and Manitoba in which charges brought against those who failed to disclose their condition were overturned by appeals courts.