The Movement to End HIV Criminalization / by Alexander McClelland

HIV criminalization “describes the unjust application of the criminal law to people living with HIV based on their HIV status – either via HIV-specific criminal statutes, or by applying general criminal laws exclusively or disproportionately against people with HIV”. Human rights advocates and organizations have tracked hundreds of cases worldwide, identifying the relationship between systemic forms of discrimination and HIV criminalization.

This panel discussion explores the social justice implications of HIV criminalization. It will feature the world premiere of the 2016 documentary film, HIV Is Not A Crime. See the trailer here!

This event is primarily in English. The room is accessible via elevator. There are no steps to get into the building.


Edwin Bernard, Global Co-ordinator, HIV Justice Network

The Global Picture: Surveying the State of HIV Criminalisation:

Presentation Abstract
This presentation will introduce audience members to HIV criminalisation from a global perspective, and why it is problematic for public health as well as human rights. It will highlight countries that have HIV-specific criminal statutes, as well as jurisdictions, such as Canada, which, in spite of not having HIV-specific criminal laws on the books, have vigorously prosecuted people living with HIV.

Alexander McClelland, Concordia University

Criminal Charges for HIV Non-disclosure, Transmission and/or Exposure: Impacts on the Lives of People Living with HIV in Canada

Presentation Abstract
This presentation will elaborate some initial findings from an ongoing research project that is examining the lived experiences of people who have been criminally charged in Canada in relation to HIV non-disclosure, transmission and/or exposure. Canada is well-known as a country with high rates of criminalization towards people living with HIV. Through a series of qualitative interviews this project seeks to understand the material outcomes for HIV-positive people who live their lives in a negative relation to the law due to being institutionally marked as a ‘criminal’ and a ‘risk to public safety’ through the process of criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, transmission and/or exposure.

Laurel Sprague, Research Fellow in HIV, Gender, and Justice, HIV Justice Network

Your Sentence is Not My Freedom: Feminism, HIV Criminalization and Systems of Stigma

Presentation Abstract
HIV criminalisation takes different form in different legal contexts, yet always arises from social hierarchies, and related stigmatising attitudes, based on gender, sexual orientation, class, and other forms of marginalized minority status. Examining the Canadian Context, in which prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure have relied primarily on the use of sexual assault laws, provides important insights into the ways in which HIV-related stigma creates an interlocking web of discrimination for people living with and most vulnerable to HIV. This presentation explores ways in which gender is used both to justify HIV criminalisation and to prosecute people who are seen to violate gendered norms of behaviour, then discusses ways in which Canadian feminists have led the critical response to the use of sexual assault laws in HIV non-disclosure prosecutions.

Andrew Spieldenner, Hofstra University

The Cost of Acceptable Losses: Exploring Intersectionality, Meaningful Involvement of People with HIV, and HIV Criminalization

Presentation Abstract
Intersectionality is a vital part of engaging in social justice coalition work. In HIV criminalization efforts, intersectionality means understanding how place, position and power get enacted and acted on. I will explore how intersectionality functions in the lives of PLHIV, and in particular how the meaningful involvement of people with HIV requires a complex engagement with intersectionality. Organizing around HIV criminalization requires an intersectional understanding rooted in the notion that none of us are acceptable losses. I will utilize two case studies in the American context: California and Colorado.

Introduced by Liz Lacharpagne, COCQ-SIDA and Martin French, Concordia University