BRANTFORD ON – As if HIV wasn’t enough of a worry on its own, the recent court rulings on October 5 have made it even more of a worry for those in danger of contracting the virus. The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that those with “low viral loads” of HIV no longer have to disclose this information with their sexual partner if they are wearing proper protection, such as a condom.
HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks the immune system. Even though one may not realize they have it at first, over time the immune system grows weak, and if it goes left untreated, the immune system will no longer be able to defend the body from infections, diseases, or cancers that can kill you. Once this occurs, that person contracts AIDS.
Previous to the SCC’s court ruling, any person with HIV, who transferred the disease to their sex partner, could be charged with a criminal offence and face many years in prison up to life sentences. While this ruling may seem dramatic, especially to those living with the virus, it may also be necessary. In Ottawa, there is already speculation about a case with a man who is accused of attempting to murder three men by infecting them with the disease. With this new ruling, it could possibly sway the jury’s vote.
With cases that are not quite as severe, the ruling seems fair to those who live responsibly with HIV and practice “safer sex.” However, a lot of people are still on the fence to the new decision, especially those who do not have it but could possibly be at risk. Candice Evans, Healthy Lifestyles Committee Coordinator at Laurier Brantford has mixed feelings about the ruling.
“I feel like the initial punishment was too much (up to life in prison) for not telling your partner you were HIV positive, but at the same time, even with the huge advances in medicine and technology, there’s no guarantee that you can’t contract HIV even if your partner is on the medication and uses a condom,” she says.
Another point that Evans brought up was how it may affect university students specifically.
In her opinion, Evans says that, “Among our age group especially, the contraceptive is birth control, not condoms, which leaves us open to STIs. Even if there were to be a huge media backlash on this decision, which so far there hasn’t been, that probably wouldn’t be enough to change students’ mind,” she explains.
For Evans, this topic has raised her concern since the story was published. As soon as she read it, she posted it right away to her personal Facebook page to spread the word to others. Evans has concerns over the technicalities of the new ruling.
“What does “low viral load” even mean? There’s been no information given on how low is low enough or how often those who are HIV positive should be tested. If their viral load spikes, do they then have to go back and inform anyone they’ve been with sexually?” asks Evans.
While the new court ruling should cause controversy, not much has been published or said about it. Even if a person wears a condom, there is always the chance of breakage and pregnancy, putting the child at risk as well.
“I still feel like there needs to be the emphasis on people who are HIV positive needing to tell their partners and make the educated decision together to have sex,” says Evans.
This new ruling emphasizes the importance of “safer sex” and encourages people to talk to their sexual partners before making the decision.
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