HIV deserves full disclosure

Photo: 

People living with HIV face social stigma that makes sharing their condition with others throughout their day to day lives a difficult and contentious subject. But when it comes to sexual partners, disclosing that they have the virus is a vital responsibility.

In a Toronto Star article, advocates argue that those suffering from HIV are unfairly prosecuted in Ontario through the court system when it comes to nondisclosure. Advocates believe that charges laid on those that fail to disclose, such as aggravated sexual assault, are disproportionate to the crime committed and criminalize HIV instead of contributing to a solution for it.

No matter how low the chance is that the virus will be transferred, those carrying the HIV virus need to disclose it to their sexual partners. Consensual sex can only be had when both parties know the risks involved. HIV can lead to AIDS, a serious disease that can be fatal. People deserve to know their risk of contracting it before getting intimate with a partner.

Despite this truth, the penalties for not disclosing HIV to a partner in Ontario aren’t proportionate to the crime in many cases. When people with HIV don’t disclose, they can be put on the sex offenders’ registry and persecuted for aggravated sexual assault, a charge difficult to make in other legal contexts.

This still applies to cases where the virus wasn’t transferred and where the chance of transference was none due to use of a condom.

There are certainly cases in which HIV is intentionally or unintentionally transferred that damage people’s lives where these types of charges are warranted. But a blanket charge applied to a variety of situations and intents won’t do much good.

The prevalence of these cases points to a larger issue of a lack of sex education. Elementary and high school classrooms discuss the ways in which a person can contract diseases like HIV and how to prevent it from happening. Currently, they stop short of explaining what the protocol is concerning consent after one has contracted a sexually transmitted disease or illness.

Improving the amount of accessible knowledge concerning HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases won’t only help tackle the social stigma that HIV positive people face, but will also give people the tools to act responsibly and uphold informed consent with their partners.

Disclosing that one has HIV to a partner is absolutely paramount no matter what one’s viral load is. However, instead of simply punishing those who have already committed the crime of not disclosing, Ontario needs to support education on the subject of HIV transference to prevent it in the future.

— Journal Editorial Board

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.