Dalhousie Law Journal


criminal law, HIV, sexual partner, Supreme Court of Canada, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, life imprisonment


In this paper, the author examines the trend toward the increased criminalization and punishment of persons with HIV who fail to inform their stxual partners of their HIV-positive status. Since the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Cuerrier, such behaviour may constitute aggravated assaultor aggravated sexual assault, the latter offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The paper surveys the Canadian case law and highlights the trend towards the imposition of increasingly harsh sentences. After reviewing public-health and criminal law options for dealing with nondisclosure of one's HIV status, the author concludes that criminal law should only be invoked in the most serious circumstances andonly where all otherpublic health measures have been exhausted. Criminal law should be reserved for individuals who demonstrate a pattern of non-disclosure either over time or with different sexual partners. The author also explores the socialand legal reasons behind the apparent contradiction that, despite the improved prognosis for persons with HIV sentences for those who knowingly transmit the virus have become increasingly severe.

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