Press Release : ASAAP on HIV Criminalization
ASAAP’s statement and press release on HIV Criminalization:
( FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE )
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) stands united with community allies against attempts to further criminalize HIV
Toronto: On February 8th, the Attorney Generals of Manitoba and Quebec will bring 2 cases to the Superior Court of Canada – R. vs Mabior & R. vs D.C – that carry profound consequences for us all. In two separate appeals both Attorney Generals are arguing for an expansion of criminal law to enforce disclosure of HIV status in any and all cases of sexual contact, regardless of the person’s viral load, use of condoms and the risks (or lack thereof) associated with the activity. Such a move will effectively result in the potential criminalization of all those living with HIV and derail advances in prevention efforts.
The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) strongly believes that criminalization further stigmatizes HIV and deters people from taking action that keeps themselves and those around them safe such as getting tested and seeking treatment and counseling. More importantly, these blanket conditions proposed for criminalization fail to recognize people living with HIV as responsible members of the community.
“To address non-disclosure we first need to understand why this is difficult – if you were met with fear, anger, loss of housing or employment and even violence – would you easily disclose your status?” asks Vijaya Chikermane, Executive Director at ASAAP. “Adding criminal connotations and consequences to disclosure only serves to bolster the stigma and fear of HIV testing which can increase the risk of transmission,” she continues.
The criminalization of HIV in Canada on the scale we are currently witnessing started with a 1998 Superior Court of Canada (SCC) ruling (R. vs Cuerrier) which stated that that a person must disclose his or her HIV‐positive status before engaging in sexual activity that poses a ‘significant risk of serious bodily harm’ (i.e., a significant risk of HIV transmission) to their partner. The SCC however did not define what would constitute ‘significant risk’ in its decision or provide criteria for assessing risk. The result is that since then there have been over 130 charges laid with a conviction rate of 50%, roughly 85% of which resulted in jail sentences. In most cases, there was no actual transmission of the virus. In other words, the charges were based solely on non-disclosure of HIV status and NOT on whether anyone was actually put at any risk (determined by the type of sexual act, the infected person’s viral load and the use of condoms).
“What we need to understand is that the rhetoric employed by those pushing for heavy-handed enforcement of disclosure hardly matches the reality on the ground. More convictions mean more people being sent to prison. This makes no sense in a context where the rate of HIV transmissions in federal prisons is 22 times higher than it is on the outside and the rate of transmission of co-infections like HEP-C is 45 times higher ” adds Yogi Acharya, Community Outreach worker at ASAAP.
“Putting people in prison will not stop the spread of HIV. What will help is efforts to reduce stigma associated with HIV through better and expanded education and testing programs,” concludes Chikermane.
More than 100 organizations from Canada and around the world have signed on to a statement opposing the criminalization of people living with HIV in Canada. For more information and for background information on the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, visit www.aidslaw.ca/stopcriminalization.
Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator
Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention
416-599-2727 ext 225 or email@example.com
Speechless Faces in Silent Spaces Part 3
written by: Starfish
Starfish is a budding writer, an avid reader, a lover of compassion and collaboration, a keen explorer of human consciousness, and a curious seeker of natural healing wisdom and multi-dimensional spiritualities. Originally from a remarkable little South Asian country, Starfish made the great migration with family to Canada. Starfish is excited to be sharing her thoughts, insights, adventures, and quirks about being poz, and also just being human.
She sped out of that library like a reporter on a beat. She saw blurred faces with sharp eyes looking at her and she thought she heard growling coming from the gutters of their rounded bellies. Why were their bellies rounded? Swelling with pride. Babies pushed out of their wombs screaming bloody murder for bringing them into this world. No more squishy softness inside mummy’s tummy. No more muted sounds from the universe outside, rather a deafening roar of voices mingled with machines and the maddening urgency of racing mufflers and screeching tires. This was life! On the inside and outside where one was alive. And there was no place to hide.
Stop. Breathe. Shhhh…
She had walked all the way from the library to Book City just past Runnymede station. Sweat was trickling down her back, absorbed by the thick elastic waistband of her sweatpants. She took off the bulky grey coat, the blue hoodie and the long-sleeved tee until she could feel the air brush against her clammy skin. She was now completely visible for the world to see in her dull black tank top, the one she had been wearing to bed for the last couple of days inside out because the crisp paper labels made her skin itchy. The disposed garments lay on top of her bare forearm like heavy drapes. She bent down to lift her backpack and could feel the intensity of curious eyes of the passersby. It was -1 degree Celsius.
She stepped inside the mid-size book shop and felt her mind coming back to accepting the regular comings and goings of the day. No longer were babies bawling or mothers cuddling and fussing or mowing her down with their strollers. The traffic had somehow ebbed to an even flow and rhythm. Footsteps fell in melodious thumps at a safe distance. The space felt like home.
She stood and stared at the assortment of magazines on the rack to her right and marveled at the talents behind the layouts, the photos, the typeface, the subjects and the text. How many hours did they spend to get it just right? What inner genius propelled them to discover the right balance of colour, light and literature? They were complex minds seeking ingenuity and innovation over the prosaic reality of a mucky world. Someday, she would get out of the trenches of her silent war where veils were both the bullets and the emollient. Get out and redirect her mind to creative pursuits and industry. For now, she listened and observed through these veils and allowed her body to react and overreact as she forgave it for its weaknesses.
But peace came and went as the battle cry ricocheted once again from cover to cover. It landed on those defiant pills, oozing photo-shopped brilliance from the pores of a dead tree. The Walrus. Aids at 30. But she didn’t run this time. She moved her body close to the cover in a kind of face-off daring herself to touch it.
“That’s the last copy we have.” Her body shook so startled was it by the bass tone that came from behind her. She turned around to see a tall youthful-looking man standing behind the counter directly across the magazine racks. She stared at the wild black curls framing his soft features. He was wearing round glasses with a red frame resting at ease on a long, hooked nose. His lips were like two slices of prosciutto carved into skin the colour of cinnamon. His eyes looked larger than normal with the glasses. She wasn’t close enough to see their shade. The rest of him looked rather dumpy. But for the red-rimmed eye-wear, style wasn’t his forte. He was lean underneath a washed-out t-shirt with a dull palm tree on the front and a pair of years-old jeans.
He returned her gaze and gave her a quick look from head to toe, noticing the mound of fabric on her arm. Something in her eyes compelled him to speak further.
“Actually, that’s the September issue and shouldn’t even be there.” She nodded. She felt her heart picking up speed and her blood warm to the sound of his voice. A faint sliver of a smile formed on her dry lips. He smiled back. She immediately turned to the magazine and picked it up off the shelf and brought it over to the counter.
“I’ll take it.” Her voice whispered. She was starting to feel cold again and heaped her clothes on the counter to put them back on one by one as he watched in earnest. When the turtle shell of her clothes enveloped her once more, she receded to a place in her mind where this man with the red-rimmed glasses was no longer an object of her delusional longing but part of the dust and the mud that buried her heart every time her life expectancy was mapped out in a printout of numerical data.
I won’t lose myself this time, she thought.
Aids at 30 was in her hands. It was once a death sentence, read the tagline. She mused on these words as she walked out of the book store and back towards her silent dwelling where she trusted the veils to keep her secret and to keep her warm at night.
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