HIV is Not a Crime
19 mars 2001 (George House Trust)
MANCHESTER, 19 March 2001 (George House Trust)
The prosecution and sentencing of a man with HIV for passing the virus to his former girlfriend sets a dangerous and frightening precedent for all people living with HIV.
It should not be possible for someone to be sent to prison for having consensual sex with another person. Every adult has responsibility for their own consenting sexual behaviour and for protecting themselves. Criminalising the transmission of HIV puts all the responsibility on people living with HIV.
People with HIV are already living with uncertainty, discrimination and facing stigma.
This court case does nothing to improve public education about HIV. It does nothing to create a climate in which people with HIV can live without discrimination.
Denise McDowell, Director of George House Trust said :
"The danger now is that people with HIV will live with the fear of prosecution,
"that HIV is driven underground with less people being open about their HIV status, less people taking HIV tests (if you don’t know you can’t "knowingly" infect), and less people benefiting from support and heathcare.
"This is a step backwards to the ignorance and blame of the 1980s.
"The real crime being committed today is discrimination against all people with HIV. Instead of blaming we should all be working, world-wide, to improve education, remove discrimination and support all people with HIV."
Notes to editors
George House Trust is the HIV voluntary organisation for the North West. It is currently supporting over 750 people with HIV - making it the most significant HIV support agency outside London.
Further information : Denise McDowell or Tim Pickstone 0161 274 4499 firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter to Editor (Guardian 19 March 2001)
Everyone who has HIV has got it from someone else. If we are to create a blame culture, i.e prosecution for transmission (Editorial 19 March 2001), where does it stop ? The Home Office, who accept that Stephen Kelly was infected in prison, know that drugs and sex are available in prison and yet fail to provide condoms and clean injecting equipment ? Are they reckless and culpable ?
The point that Terrence Higgins Trust is making, with George House Trust and PHACE West, is that the dangerous message being sent out is that it is the responsibility of people with HIV to declare they have the infection, not that it is for all of us to take responsibility for our own consenting sexual behaviour. And that if you don’t know you have HIV you can’t be accused of "recklessness" in having unprotected sex. What kind of message is this ? How much better for all of us, including people with HIV, to be able to talk openly about HIV, to have an HIV test, without fear of prosecution, blame and discrimination.
A prison sentence does not prevent transmission of HIV, and in this case has added to it.
George House Trust
77 Ardwick Green North
Manchester M12 6FX