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Law which makes it a crime to spread HIV repealed

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2023. 10:08 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Following from the House of Representatives, the Senate considered the amendments to the Criminal Code, specifically sections 46(a) and 73(a) concerning criminal responsibility for transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

In the House, Minister of Health, Kevin Bernard, stated: “Punitive laws are not the most effective way to combat this epidemic. They can, in fact, pose significant barriers to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. By criminalizing the transmission of HIV/AIDS, we run the risk of driving the disease underground, discouraging those at risk from seeking testing, counseling, and treatment for fear of legal reprisal. Therefore, Madam Speaker, the Ministry of Health and Wellness firmly believes that the battle against HIV/AIDS should not be fought in the courtroom, but in our communities, our hospitals, and our clinics. We should focus our efforts on education, prevention, care, and support rather than punishment. We should aim to reduce the stigma and discrimination that surrounds this disease to encourage more people to get tested, to know their status, and to seek treatment. And so, definitely, Madam Speaker, the repeal of this section, 46A, and 73A, is a step towards a more compassionate, more effective approach to addressing HIV/AIDS.”

In the Senate, Michael Peyrefitte suggested an exception for instances of rape and sexual assault, pointing out that a rapist is not likely to reveal their HIV status before committing the act.

Senator Janelle Chanona recalled her journalism days and noted that stigma and discrimination remain real for persons with HIV and that a discussion on sexual health and protection is needed more than ever.

Belize has averaged more than 200 infections from HIV per year in the last decade with a handful of deaths reported.

 

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