Motion to criminalise HIV transmission ‘dangerous’

– AIDS committee calls for its rejection

A motion before the National Assembly to have persons face justice for intentionally infecting others with HIV has been described as ill-informed and dangerous by the National AIDS Committee (NAC) which also said that regardless of what motivated the motion it should be “roundly rejected”.

The motion is to be moved by Everall Franklin, the representative of the Guyana Action Party/Rise, Organise and Rebuild Guyana (GAP/ROAR) coalition in the House.

According to the NAC, the authors of the motion, which is expected to be debated today in parliament, appear to be oblivious to the long and difficult worldwide debate over the issue of intentional transmission of HIV. This debate has concluded that legal remedies are complex to fashion, difficult to apply and ultimately counter-productive, NAC added.

In a press release issued yesterday, the NAC also said that the motion would arrive at being counter-productive “even more rapidly given the demand that patient-physician confidentiality be waived if so invoked by the courts.”

It said that apart from a variety of contract and tort actions, possible HIV persons would be reluctant to reveal their status in these circumstances.  Further, the NAC said, should the motion become law then the core of the government’s preventative strategy, namely voluntary counselling and testing would be devastated.

“Confidential and accurate information on the numbers of HIV positive persons is an indispensable tool for effective public health strategies to combat HIV,” the release said.

The NAC pointed out that the motion calls for “the transmission of HIV to any other person to be an indictable offence once a person knows that he is infected. The motion does not require intent. If a condom breaks, for example, and transmission occurs, the transmitter would be liable.”

According to the release, the above may not be an oversight since the preamble of the motion speaks to “persons, some knowingly, still infect others.” It was pointed out that in this respect the motion takes Guyana out of the community of the nations debating the issue in a respectful and humanitarian way to place it in the few retrograde countries.

It was noted that anyone, whether or not s/he is HIV positive who insists in continuing with unprotected sex, once the partner has expressed unwillingness to do so is already liable to serious penalties under the Sexual Offences Act. The NAC pointed out that this Act extensively covers coercive circumstances in establishing liability.

“While recognizing that ‘infection rates are still disappointingly high’ as the motion states, the NAC is completely opposed to the premise of this motion that HIV positive persons are responsible for this state of affairs and must be penalized. In this respect the motion is inhumane, ill-informed and dangerous,” the release said.

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