Don’t criminalize people on HIV treatment

published on August 21, 2017 by JULIO MONTANER and KORA DEBECK in Globe and Mail

Dr. Julio Montaner is a UBC-Killam Professor of Medicine and the UBC-St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation chair in AIDS Research. Dr. Kora DeBeck is an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy and research scientist at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

The emergence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s was a traumatizing and terrifying time in modern history. The first public and political reactions were exploited by elected officials, often for political gain and by homophobic groups to further stigmatize and marginalize the gay community.

We have come a long way in the last three decades. Public discourse is no longer driven by ignorance, lack of information, stigma and fear in our understanding of HIV/AIDS. Or is it?

Recently, an Abbotsford, B.C., man was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly not disclosing his HIV status to sexual partners. Without all the details related to his health status – including whether he was on effective treatment – we cannot comment on that specific case. However, past cases and the accompanying media attention, public reaction, and social media response demonstrate that Canadians need more information on the actual risk of being infected with HIV by someone receiving treatment in 2017.

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