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Government moves to amend HIV legislation in Belize

Posted: Friday, June 9, 2023. 5:08 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: A landmark shift is on the horizon in Belize’s legislation as the government plans to amend the outdated Criminal Code concerning HIV transmission. This amendment, which primarily focuses on the issue of mother-to-child transmission, marks a crucial step towards a more progressive understanding of the disease.

The push for change has been jointly proposed by the Ministry of Human Development, under the leadership of Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, led by Minister Kevin Bernard. The current law, a 22-year-old statute, holds HIV-positive individuals criminally responsible for any risk of transmission, including from mother to child.

At the time of its implementation, the legislation came at a period of great fear and misunderstanding about HIV, before the development of anti-retroviral medications and a human rights-centered approach to health.

Balderamos-Garcia underlined the outdated nature of the law, stating, “Health authorities have realized over the years that not only was this legislation unnecessary, but it also clashes with contemporary human rights norms, particularly concerning health.”

The minister went on to explain the ramifications of the legislation, outlining its unnecessary stigmatization of HIV, “This law only amplifies stigma and discrimination against HIV, while other sexually transmitted infections aren’t subject to the same scrutiny. It’s time for this to change.”

With backing from the Cabinet, the proposed amendment is seen as a significant stride in reshaping attitudes towards HIV and AIDS in Belize. Balderamos-Garcia emphasized that existing sections of the Criminal Code could handle cases of reckless or intentional transmission.

As the fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has progressed, Balderamos-Garcia affirmed, “There is no longer a need for this specific law, especially as we move towards eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. To align with international standards, we must remove this punitive provision.”

This impending amendment is expected to harmonize Belize’s HIV laws with modern human rights and health standards, indicative of the evolving global perspective on managing and understanding the disease.

 

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