XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure and obligatory testing in 8 Latin American countries

Presented by Tamil Rainanne Kendall (Canada).

T.R. Kendall1, E. López Uribe2, G. García Patiño2

1University of British Columbia, Community, Culture & Global Studies, Kelowna, Canada, 2Balance, Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico City, Mexico

Background: Criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission and obligatory HIV testing are hot topics in HIV and human rights, but at AIDS 2008 and in the published literature, Latin America has been absent from the debate.
Methods: Content analysis of National HIV Legislation and Plans which analyzed obligatory HIV testing and criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission in eight Latin American countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru. In-depth interviews with government representatives and civil society (n=48) explored on the ground realities, prosecution, and civil society mobilization.
Results: Half of the countries allow obligatory HIV testing in certain circumstances: during pregnancy (Peru); infants exposed to HIV (Bolivia); marriage and sex work (Bolivia, Honduras, Mexico). The national HIV law may allow obligatory testing (Honduras) or forbid obligatory testing or criminalization while state or municipal regulations demand it (Mexico). Testing to enter schools, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, army or when applying for a job is not permitted anywhere but is practiced throughout the region. HIV transmission can be prosecuted in five (62.5%) countries and in three (37.5%) exposure to HIV or STIs is criminalized. No cases of prosecution were identified. Civil society is successfully mobilizing to challenge retrograde laws: a law criminalizing HIV transmission has been abandoned in Chiapas, Mexico; a law decriminalizing HIV transmission is about to be approved in Paraguay; and Colombian activists are fighting an initiative to require HIV testing before marriage.
Conclusions: Unlike countries in Africa, Central Europe or Asia, criminalization of HIV in Latin America tends to be a hangover from pre-HIV criminal codes rather than a result of new legislation. Worrying trends with respect to obligatory testing of pregnant women, infants exposed to HIV, and people wanting to marry were identified. Increased information for civil society and advocacy with legislators is needed.

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