I am invited to AIDS 2012 in Washington DC this summer by the American organisation SERO http://www.seroproject.com and the international HIV Justice Network http://vimeo.com/hivjustice.

I will participate in debates and workshops surrounding HIV and media and HIV criminalisation. Before I arrive I need to clarify a few things.

While a lot of the HIV-criminalisation discussion in the U.S. is about disclosure, this is not the case in Norway.

The law here does not require HIV-positive people to disclose. Even though the court has stated that people with HIV should disclose their status prior to sex, it doesn't give you any protection against prosecution and the question of guilt in a trial. The question of guilt is only connected to whether you have (knowing or neglecting the probability of being HIV positive) put someone at risk of infection or actually infected them.

All in all there is a lot of misunderstandings and confusion around this in Norway. Even the organisations and politicians are sometimes making the wrong assumptions about this. The consequences are bad for every one. A lot of HIV-negative people believe that those with HIV are legally obligated to disclose and therefore feel protected, while people with HIV are told that they are not obligated to disclose their status, making the others upset and sometimes angry if they find out.

In my case my indictment is not about nondisclosure. This has nothing to do with the question of whether I'm guilty or not. It will on the other hand be an issue if I am convicted in relation to how they will sentence me.

The law in Norway puts all responsibility on the one with HIV. My case is a very good example of the Norwegian and Nordic way of thinking. The law is to protect the society from communicable diseases, like HIV. Even if we want to (and I tried once with my former HIV negative partner) a person can not legally free anyone with HIV from the threats of prosecution by the state, even if they wanted to by signing papers/contracts etc. So disclosing gives us no protection from the law.

The prosecutor in my case found it irrelevant to this indictment that the complainant had HIV prior to the sex we had. The law opens to prosecute any HIV-positive conducting in sex which they find to be a risk of infection. Whether that is another HIV-positive or it was consensual sex with disclosure has nothing to do with the law. Because the law is there to protect the society not the individual.

The complainant in my case is not my enemy. He wanted to withdraw his charge already in October last year (in writing and given to the police). In my country you can not withdraw your charges in HIV cases if you once pushed that button. Because as a complainant you are just a witness to the state of Norway (represented by the prosecutor) which is my opponent in the upcoming trial.

This is part of why Norway and some of the Nordic countries are ranked among the worst in the world (by UNAIDS) when it comes to criminalizing HIV-positive people?

Watch the newly published interview Sean Strub and SERO did with me during the UNAIDS conference in Oslo, February 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1C4zpdHiY


Louis Gay