Don't criminalise HIV

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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Dear Editor,

As someone living with HIV, I'm disturbed by the new recommendations of the joint select committee in Parliament for a new offence to be inserted into the Act to deal with the case where someone wilfully and knowingly transmits HIV and other infections to another.

This recommendation undercuts the fundamental public health message that HIV prevention is a shared responsibility and that everyone should act in such a way to maintain their own health and protect themselves from contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections: Sex should be two people's responsibility.

The Jamaican Parliament should understand that HIV is no longer a death sentence and PLHIVs (Persons living with HIV) are surviving much longer as analysis shows that antiretroviral therapy reduces HIV transmission.

I'm asking that Jamaica's Parliament to re-examine these recommendations stated in respect to the Offences Against the Person Act. The criminalisation of 'HIV Non-Disclosure, Exposure & Transmission: Background & Current Landscape' document created by UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland, reviewed in February 2012 shows that this recommendation does have a negative impact on human rights, sexual and reproductive rights and potential to increase HIV-related stigma which is believed to hinder us as a country from our ambitious 90-90-90 treatment goal target set to help end the AIDS epidemic.

HIV criminalisation discourages people at risk from getting tested and makes those who are HIV-positive less trustful of public health authorities.

I recommend that this committee does some more assessment and have in-depth and proper dialogues with civil society organisations, such as Jamaican Network of Seropositives, Equality for All Foundation, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, UNAIDS, the HIV/STI/TB unit within the Ministry of Health, and the wider community of PLHIV.

HIV should be not be prosecuted, but prevented, prosecution will not help with prevention.

Tevin R Gordon

Young PLHIV Spokesperson

JCCM LGBT Representative

Young LGBT Activist

Community Facilitator

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