Scientists back argument for change in HIV disclosure rules from man facing charges
A B.C. man facing a dozen charges of aggravated sexual assault for not disclosing his HIV status to people he had unprotected sex with doesn’t believe certain people living with the virus should be required to tell sexual partners.
Now, some Vancouver civil libertarians, along with scientists from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, are backing up his argument.
Mission RCMP recommended three charges against 48-year-old Brian Carlisle in August while urging other potential victims to come forward.
This week, police announced the additional nine charges of aggravated sexual assault, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“It’s a devastating, devastating charge,” said Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Many in the scientific community agree, arguing modern HIV treatment can remove the risk of transmitting the virus.
In a Globe and Mail editorial published last month, Dr. Julio Montaner, UBC-St. Paul's Hospital Foundation chair in AIDS Research, and Dr. Kora DeBeck, research scientist at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said Canadians need more information on the risks of HIV transmission by people receiving medical treatment.
"Simply put, HIV treatment suppresses the virus to undetectable levels. When the virus is undetectable, HIV cannot be passed on,” they wrote.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association wants the law updated to take modern medicine into account.
"The best scientific and medical evidence we have suggest there is virtually no risk,” said Vonn. “So we have to ask ourselves, how can we be using the heavy hand of the criminal law in this kind of scenario."
As for Carlisle’s case, without knowing the details of his medical status at the time of the alleged offences, it is not yet known whether science will be on his side.