Laws that criminalize nondisclosure of one’s HIV status prior to sex may contribute to more transmissions of the virus, Avert reports.

Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, Canadian researchers recruited 150 HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) at a primary care clinic in Toronto between September 2010 and June 2012. The men were given an audio computer-assisted self-interview questionnaire in which they were asked about their concerns over the nation’s law that governs HIV disclosure.

Nine of the 124 people included in the study’s analysis, or 7 percent, said they were less or much less likely to be tested for HIV because of their concern over being prosecuted for nondisclosure under Canadian law.

The study authors used mathematical modeling to project that a 7 percent reduction in HIV testing driven by such concerns could contribute to an 18.5 percent increase in transmission of the virus within the community. Seventy-three percent of this increase would be driven by people who had contracted HIV but who avoided getting tested for the virus, thus staying out of care and treatment, which itself would lower their risk of transmission.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

For more information about HIV criminalization in Canada, check out the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s web site by clicking here. Additionally, the Sero Project is a nonprofit devoted to reforming HIV criminalization statutes; check out its web site by clicking here.

To read the Avert article, click here.

To read the study, click here.