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Wednesday 19 September 2012

Overcoming HIV criminalisation together! (Press release)

This is an unofficial English translation of the press release: Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe: Overcoming HIV criminalisation together!

Berlin - An international conference on the criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, potential or perceived HIV exposure and non-intentional HIV transmission will take place at the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin on 20th September. Well-known activists and experts – including from UNAIDS, the HIV/AIDS programme of the United Nations – will share the current legal situation in Europe and Central Asia, network with each other, and explore ways to ensure a more appropriate, rational, fair and just response to the issue.

Experts agree that the criminalisation of non-intentional HIV transmission, and sexual behaviour that risks HIV exposure or transmission, contributes to the spread of HIV. Even where people with HIV are legally obligated to disclose their HIV status prior to sexual encounters, this does not help to prevent infection, but harms HIV prevention.

Carsten Schatz, member of the Board of Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, therefore argues that:

"Criminalisation runs against successful communication on prevention in Germany – that every person ought to be responsible for protecting themselves from HIV infection. The criminal law offender-victim logic is not suited to consensual sexual encounters. To place the entire responsibility for HIV prevention on the shoulders of persons with HIV contributes to their stigmatisation. Recent judgments and media reporting brand people with HIV as potential offenders. HIV criminalisation fosters fear and thereby jeopardises exactly what it is supposed to bring about: open communication about HIV prevention. It can also discourage people from seeking an HIV test since only those aware of their status can be prosecuted. Those who wish to limit new HIV infections to a minimum, should ensure that criminal law stays out of the matter."

Morever, again and again, people are being prosecuted and punished despite there being no significiant risk of HIV transmission. Effective HIV treatment is now considered as reliable against HIV transmission as a condom. However, such scientific advances are rarely heard or regognised in German courts. In Germany, people with HIV, in line with established case law, have a duty to ensure the protection of the partner or to inform them about their HIV statuts.

Europe is second only to North America as the region with the most convictions. In recent years, some countries such as Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have started to revise their legislation.

"These are encouraging signs“, says Edwin Bernard, project leader of the seminar and co-ordinator of the international HIV Justice Network and a member of the European AIDS Treatment Group. "In contrast, we are very concerned about developments in countries like Romania, which recently enacted an HIV-specific criminal law, or in Belgium, where new legal precedents were created allowing prosecutions for the first time. We are also hearing news about absurd and problematic trials for perceived HIV exposure in Austria. The conference is designed to help advocates move forward in these particularly repressive countries."

The conference is taking place on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the European AIDS-Treatment Group (EATG). The meeting is co-organised with Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe (DAH), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and HIV in Europe, a multi-stakerholders initiative exchange on activities to improve early diagnosis and earlier care of HIV across Europe.

The seminar will take place in English. Representative of the media may attend all three plenary sessions as well as workshop two about the legal situation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This workshop will take place in German.

Download the agenda and concept note (in English).



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