25 July 2018 (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) – Twenty of the world’s leading HIV scientists have launched an evidence-based consensus that systematically refutes the rationale for laws that criminalize HIV transmission. The “Expert Consensus Statement on the Science of HIV in the Context of Criminal Law” and an accompanying editorial were published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS) today.
Concerned that HIV criminalization laws are partly driven by a poor appreciation of the science around HIV, the panel of 20 global experts developed a Consensus Statement describing the best medical and scientific evidence around HIV transmission to inform the justice system.
According to the Expert Consensus Statement, at least 68 countries criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission. Another 33 countries are known to have applied other criminal law provisions in similar cases. People living with HIV continue to be accused, arrested, prosecuted and/or convicted for non-disclosure, possible or perceived exposure or transmission of HIV in cases where: no harm was intended; HIV transmission did not occur, was extremely unlikely or impossible; and transmission was neither alleged nor proven.
“Simply put, HIV criminalization laws are ineffective, unwarranted and discriminatory,” Expert Consensus Statement co-author and IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “In many cases, these misconceived laws exacerbate the spread of HIV by driving people living with and at risk of infection into hiding and away from treatment services.”
The 20 co-authors of the Expert Consensus Statement include Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi of the Pasteur Institute, Salim Abdool Karim of Columbia University, Chris Beyrer of John Hopkins University, Pedro Cahn of Buenos Aires University, Peter Godfrey-Faussett of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Julio Montaner of the University of British Columbia and other leading global scientists with expertise in research, epidemiology and patient care. The Expert Consensus Statement has been endorsed by the International AIDS Society, International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and other organizations and scientists.
The statement stresses that:
- There is no possibility of HIV transmission via contact with the saliva of an HIV-positive person, including through kissing, biting or spiting.
- The risk of transmission from a single act of unprotected sex is very low, and there is no possibility of HIV transmission during vaginal or anal sex when the HIV-positive partner has an undetectable viral load.
- It is not possible to establish proof of HIV transmission from one individual to another, even with the most advanced scientific tools.
Limited understanding of current HIV science reinforces stigma and can lead to miscarriages of justice while undermining efforts to address the HIV epidemic. In the accompanying editorial, JIAS Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Mayer and colleagues wrote, “specific laws focusing on HIV criminalization, and misuse of other laws despite the evidence against the likelihood of HIV transmission, reflect the perpetuation of ignorance, irrational fear and stigmatization.”
They continued, “We therefore hope that governmental authorities will view this Expert Consensus Statement as a resource to better understand the actual rather than the perceived risks posed by exposures to individuals living with HIV, and to create societies that encourage engagement and not fear.”
The Expert Consensus Statement, which has been translated into French, Russian and Spanish, encourages governments and legal and judicial systems to pay close attention to the significant advances in HIV science that have occurred. The statement serves as the gold standard of current scientific knowledge on HIV to inform any application of the criminal law in cases related to HIV.
# # #
IAS Director, Communications
About the International AIDS Society: The mission of the International AIDS Society (IAS) is to lead collective action on every front of the global HIV response through its membership base, scientific authority and convening power. Founded in 1988, the IAS is the world’s largest association of HIV professionals, with members from more than 180 countries working on all fronts of the global response to HIV. Together, we advocate and drive urgent action to reduce the global impact of HIV. The IAS is also the steward of the world’s two most prestigious HIV conferences: the International AIDS Conference and the IAS Conference on HIV Science. For more information, visit www.iasociety.org.
About the International AIDS Conference: The International AIDS Conference is the largest gathering on HIV and AIDS in the world. First convened during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, it continues to provide a unique forum for the intersection of science, advocacy and human rights. Each conference is an opportunity to strengthen policies and programmes that ensure an evidence-based response to the epidemic. The conference also serves as a focal point to intensify political and financial commitments to AIDS. The 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) will be hosted in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 23-27 July 2018, with the theme, Breaking Barriers Building Bridges. For more information, visit www.aids2018.org.
AIDS 2018: Join the conversation: Get the latest conference updates and share your thoughts and ideas through the AIDS 2018 social media channels.
- Tweet along with us – @iasociety – using #AIDS2018 to keep the conversation going, and Facebook Live questions submitted with #AIDS2018Live.
- Like AIDS 2018 on Facebook – and stay in touch with the latest conference updates and developments.
- Check us out on Instagram to see photos as they are happening.