HIV Justice Weekly - 22 May 2020 

 Canadian study provides damning evidence
of the “dramatic overrepresentation” of
Black men in HIV criminalisation news reporting


A new study published this month by a group of leading Canadian social science academics provides damning evidence of the extraordinary over-representation of Black and Black immigrant male defendants in news reporting of Canadian HIV criminalisation cases.

Eric Mykhalovskiy and Colin Hastings from York University, Toronto; Chris Sanders from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay; and Laura Bisaillon from the University of Toronto Scarborough, analysed 1680 English-language articles published between 1989 and 2015.

They found that Black men comprised 21% of those charged with HIV criminalisation offences – which under Canadian law relates to non-disclosure of known HIV-positive status, usually charged as aggravated sexual assault –  but were the focus of 62% of newspaper articles covering the issue. The pattern was amplified for Black men who were immigrants or refugees who made up 15% of those charged but were the focus of 61% of newspaper stories. 


HIV criminalisation in the news 

Canada: British Columbia's appeal court orders new trial for man accused of reneging on promise to wear condom

In a case that explores the boundaries and definitions of sexual activity and consent, the three appeal court judges all reached the same conclusion — while apparently disagreeing with each other on exactly why. The original B.C. provincial court trial ended in acquittal in 2018. 


US: Ohio Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the State's HIV Disclosure law

The Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the constitutionality of R.C. 2903.11(B)(1), Ohio’s HIV-disclosure statute, which makes it a crime for a person who has tested positive for HIV to knowingly engage in sexual conduct with another without disclosing that information, concluding that it does not violate either the free speech provision of the First Amendment or the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States or Ohio Constitutions.

Australia: Sydney man who allegedly bit a police officer during a psychotic episode has been granted bail
A fitness fanatic who allegedly violently assaulted a number of cops, including biting one during a psychotic episode, has been granted bail. Medical tests on the police officer who was bitten are pending.
More (article behind a paywall)

Russia: 42-year-old man from Kemerovo receives 2 years suspended sentence for alleged HIV transmission
The defendant was found guilty by a Kemorovo Court of not disclosing his status and transmitting HIV to his wife.

Russia: Two years suspended sentence for man accused of alleged HIV transmission in Moscow
The court found a man guilty of committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 122 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (infection of another person with HIV infection by a person who knew about the presence of this disease), and sentenced him to two years’ suspended imprisonment.


Russia: 29-year-old Perm Krai woman sentenced to two years and 25 days in prison for alleged HIV transmission
A resident of the Perm Territory has been convicted of infecting a young man with HIV infection. 


COVID-19 criminalisation & policing in the news


Human rights are paramount, especially now
From the Daily Maverick: Respect of human rights, such as human dignity, freedom of expression, the right to food, shelter, water and access to independent, competent and impartial courts lie at the centre of an effective response to Covid-19, just as it does to HIV and other life-threatening health conditions.

Aids Action Europe on the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Pandemic
From AAE: Public health measures in times of pandemics must always be human rights-based. We have learnt this well since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We are observing with growing concern that some of the measures introduced during the current SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 outbreak lack all the principles of human rights-based public health measures, and in certain cases are not even connected to the prevention and the control of the pandemic.


How Covid-19 Human Endangerment Might Be Approached as a Domestic Crime or an International Crime Against Humanity
From Jurist: As we watch the revival of the first wave and anticipate an inevitable second wave, the intentionally inept federal, uneven and dangerous state and local, and self-interested business response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a horrifying experience. As the reality of the situation unfolds, the breach of public trust is breathtaking. The clear indifference of large swathes of the governing class to the welfare of the citizens whom they are sworn to protect is monstrous. When does that monstrosity start to look like a crime or even a crime against humanity?

UNAIDS urges governments to ensure that HIV service providers from community-led organizations are recognized as essential service providers in the context of COVID-19
UNAIDS Press Statement: A cornerstone of the response to HIV, community-led health service delivery has become even more critical in the context of COVID-19, as the needs of marginalized community members and the burden on the health sector are increasing, making it vital that continued provision of HIV, tuberculosis and other health services is secured.  


Anyone accused of coughing or spitting on a person could soon face mandatory testing for COVID-19 in Queensland

The bill was introduced to Parliament this week and is expected to be debated and passed by the end of the week.

HIV-AIDS taught us not to police a disease outbreak, say experts. Did the lesson stick?

From Global News: On May 12, the Canadian COVID-19 death toll topped 5,000, two months — practically to the day — after the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. And while the virus doesn’t carry the same stigma as HIV-AIDS, this particular 21st-century pandemic isn’t without similarities to that 20th-century epidemic.


Coronavirus virus fines will appear on adults criminal records. Is that fair?

From Dutchreview: People are getting concerned about the impact of a corona fine on their future. This is because, for many people, it will appear on their criminal record.  BOAs and police officers have handed out over 10,000 fines to people who have not complied with the coronavirus rules in the Netherlan

South Africa
Covid-19 lockdown: 50 people have died in police custody or as a result of police action, says Institute of Race Relations

From South Coast Herald: Head of the institute’s policy research, Dr Anthea Jeffery said it is important “to challenge every unreasonable and unjustifiable rule and the constitutionality of the lockdown as a whole”.


An online tool helps report human rights violations during COVID-19 in Thailand

From UNAIDS: Using an online tool, community members can report to a “crisis response team” human rights abuses and other forms of discrimination including physical violence, disclosure of HIV status or being tested for HIV without consent, and discrimination at the workplace and at school.


LGBTQ+ Ugandans Arrested for Violating Social Distancing to Be Freed

From Advocate: Prosecutors have dropped charges against 19 LGBTQ+ Ugandans who were accused of violating social distancing rules, and a court has ordered that they be released.


Rushed UK coronavirus laws led to wrongful convictions, say police

From The Guardian: Police and prosecutors got the emergency laws on coronavirus wrong dozens of times, leading to scores of people being wrongly charged and convicted, it has emerged.


More than 300 convictions for spitting or coughing on emergency workers, reveals the Crown Prosecution Service
From the CPS: The 313 attacks followed a typical pattern of police officers and other emergency workers being coughed at and spat on by members of the public claiming to have the virus.


Contact Tracing and COVID-19: Lessons From HIV
From EIN Presswire: As we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention is turning to contact tracing. States and cities are gearing up to hire thousands of people to help identify and notify those who may have been exposed to the virus, in an effort to help reduce rates of transmission and keep the virus from growing exponentially within a community.


Could COVID-19 Contact Tracing Also Help End HIV? These Researchers Think So.
From The BodyPro: Agreeing with a quip sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” the authors of a new paper published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases suggest that COVID-19 tracing could be a platform for expanded HIV testing as well

COVID-19 criminalisation cases

The HIV Justice Network has recorded at least 16 reports of COVID-19 criminalisation cases between 9 - 15 May. To view this list of examples of documented cases from around the world curated by the HIV Justice Network, visit:

Others are also recording how governments and police are using COVID-19 to control, monitor, punish, and criminalise including:
See also COVID-19 law and policy trackers in Featured Resources

Featured Resources  

New digital organizing resource in the expanding landscape of policing and criminalization under a global pandemic in the United States. The project’s web page offers tools and resources for individuals and communities to stay safe and to mobilize for what they need, as well as a searchable database of current COVID19-related orders and quarantine laws, and an enforcement tracker populated by news stories. 

 Vulnerability amplified

New report from Outright showing the effects of the pandemic on LGBTQs people around the World. Seven key themes emerged from interviews with 59 LGBTIQ people from 38 countries. 
Repression, exclusion, militarisation, and criminalisation are all on the rise in countries prone to authoritarianism putting marginalised populations at greater risk. Even in countries that have made progress in recognisng the human rights of LGBTIQ people, LGBTIQ community members are experiencing a higher level of vulnerability.

27 questions for for writers and journalists to consider when writing about COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS

Any writing in response to this pandemic should engage with the virus through the experiences of people who do drugs, experience poverty, work as sex workers, live undocumented, are or have been in prison and includes Indigenous people, Black people, people of color, women, trans and non-binary people.

In response to unmet needs, a collective of activists came together to craft a list of 27 questions for journalists and writers to consider when writing about the two viral crises. 



COVID-19 law and policy trackers

Global Regional/National

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