Can it encourage disclosure?

Can criminalization encourage people to disclose their HIV status?

No. In many countries the basic premise behind the law is that people living with HIV should disclose their HIV status to potential sexual partners. The law views this exchange in extremely simplistic terms and fails to recognise the complexities of human relationships, the difficulties in dealing with a complex and stigmatised virus, and the emotional pressures that can be caused by isolation and fear of rejection. For example many people find sharing the most intimate and personal details of their lives challenging. Similarly, a high proportion of people find negotiating safer sex and condom use difficult.

In practical terms, the law can provide a disincentive for someone to disclose their HIV status. If a condom breaks during sex for example, the person living with HIV may end up inviting a criminal investigation if they disclose their status and encourage the other person to get Post Exposure Prophylaxis to reduce the risk of transmission.

This also can work to limit the success of partner notification schemes, which are a key aspect of HIV prevention. If there is a risk that past partners could bring a criminal case against a person, then it is fair to assume that they may be less likely to let health care workers contact former partners who could have been at risk.

People living with HIV have the right to chose when, where, how and to whom, and if, they disclose that they are HIV positive. One of the foundations of effective HIV prevention, sexual health and human rights is that all people, regardless of HIV status, take responsibility for their own health, knowledge and sexual choices.

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