Some countries have made significant progress in recent times by reforming laws around HIV transmission and exposure offences, Edwin J Barnard from the UK told people at the conference.
While there are still many jurisdictions around the world (including Australia) that continue to charge people with HIV under specific HIV laws or under general criminal law, there have also been some countries who have realised that recent research into undetectable viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma. and lowered infection must be taken into account in consideration of HIV transmission offences.
In 2005, the Netherlands government looked at the scientific evidence of transmission risk and decided to narrow the scope of their law so that only those who can be proven to have intentionally transmitted the virusA small infective organism which is incapable of reproducing outside a host cell. may be charged.
In recent years, court judgments in Switzerland and Canada have taken into account the findings of the 2005 Swiss Statement on HIV infectiousness. A court in Geneva has found a person with HIV not guilty of transmission based on the Statement, and Canadian courts have decided that having an undetectable viral load means you cannot be convicted of causing a ‘significant risk of serious harm’ due to HIV exposure.
There is also the possibility that the United States will review its position, with Representative Barbara Lee about to introduce a bill to Congress to ascertain whether their current laws are consistent with science.
Denmark has suspended their laws on HIV pending further research into the issue and there is hope that the laws will soon be repealed there.