Criminal case against 30 HIV-positive men dropped in the Czech Republic

21 November 2016

HIV criminalisation case against HIV-positive men dropped, but the consequences could drive more people away from testing and treatment services. 

Authorities in the Czech Republic have dropped their case against 30 HIV-positive gay men accused of having unprotected sex and spreading HIV – a criminal offence in the country.

All the men accused had acquired a new sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last year. The Czech public health authorities used this as evidence to show that the men had participated in condom-less sex. Under Czech law, people living with HIV can be persecuted for “spread of infectious diseases” by having unprotected sex, including oral sex.

The case was first brought against the men in January, despite no complainants, nor any evidence of HIV transmission. It also seems that there was no attempt to understand if any of the men were on effective treatment with undetectable viral loads, or if they practiced sero-sorting – only having unprotected sex with other HIV-positive men. It was also noted that condoms aren’t 100% effective against certain STIs, such as syphilis, which many of the men had contracted.

Last week the case was finally dropped due to lack of evidence.

Jakub Tomšej, a lawyer with the Czech AIDS Help Society, said: “There’s absolutely no evidence, there are no victims […] we believe the only consequence [of this kind of investigation] is that HIV-positive people who get another STI will simply avoid doctors.”

The rationale behind laws criminalising HIV transmission is to deter what many believe to be morally unacceptable behaviour through fear of punishment. However, a wealth of evidence shows that HIV criminalisation does not work as a public health strategy. Such laws undermine efforts to prevent and treat HIV because they discourage people from getting tested.

Photo credit:
iStock/ 421010037

Written by Caitlin Mahon

Knowledge Sharing & News Officer

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