Published July, 2010

Scientific Research on the Risk of the Sexual Transmission of HIV Infection and on HIV as a Chronic Manageable Infection, D. McLay et al., HIV Non-Disclosure and the Criminal Law: Establishing Policy Options for Ontario (2010)

This document is a chapter excerpted from a larger policy report on the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Ontario, Canada. Although it is part of a Canadian report on recommendations for changes in Canadian law and practice, this section relies on the most current scientific research of the time, including by U.S.-based scientists, with findings on (1) the risks of transmission of HIV during sex; and (2) HIV as a manageable chronic disease. It outlines the conditions required for transmission of HIV from one person to another; reviews research on the risks of unprotected sexual activities including vaginal and anal intercourse and oral sex; factors that increase or decrease the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, particularly recent research on ART (antiretroviral therapy) and viral load; and briefly discusses HIV as a chronic manageable disease, including evolving data on death rates and life expectancies as a consequence of HIV treatment developments over recent years.

This type of information is extremely useful, if not essential, for various forms of advocacy against the use of criminal penalties against people with HIV for alleged failure to disclose their status to partners, from legal defense of those charged with a crime to public education. Many criminal laws and instances of prosecutions appear to hinge, at least in part, on gross ignorance of the modes and actual statistical risks of HIV transmission.