December 10, 2008
South African Judge Puts HIV Criminalization on Trial
HIV-positive South African Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Edwin Cameron calls laws that unfairly criminalize people living with HIV “counterproductive and inherently unjust” in a recent Korea Herald opinion piece. Instead of criminalizing HIV transmission in order to control infections, Cameron writes, world leaders should divert their attention to open discussion of HIV, prevention education and condom distribution.
“There are, to be sure, rare and dramatic cases in which a person with HIV infects another with the specific intention of inflicting harm. It is a reality that men infected with HIV or AIDS in some parts of Africa have even raped girls believing that sex with virgins is a cure,” Cameron writes. He adds, however, that in many countries, transmission laws make criminals of all HIV-positive people regardless of malicious intent, keeping those who do not yet know their status from getting tested.
“Laws criminalizing the transmission of HIV undermine public health because they deter people who are HIV positive and those at risk of acquiring the virus from seeking testing, counseling and treatment,” Cameron writes. “When persons face the possibility of criminal sanctions, not knowing their HIV status can be their most efficient legal defense.”
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