Community forum in St. John’s to discuss barriers to HIV testing, legal requirements for disclosing HIV status

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A public forum planned for this evening in St. John’s will involve a discussion on the barriers to HIV testing, including the legal requirements for disclosing HIV status to sexual partners.

Barriers To Knowing Your Status, a Canadian Institutes for Health Research-sponsored Café Scientifique, will take place in the Rocket Room at the Rocket Bakery, 272 Water St., from 7-9:30 p.m.

Memorial University’s School of Pharmacy, the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador (ACNL) and Eastern Health are co-hosting the event.

“We continue to see new HIV infections being diagnosed in this province,” said Dr. Debbie Kelly, associate professor with MUN’s School of Pharmacy and the HIV clinical pharmacist with Eastern Health.

“We also know that up to 26 per cent of Canadians are unaware of their HIV-positive status. We need to make it easier for people to get tested, and understanding the barriers to HIV testing is key.

“Removing the impediments to getting tested includes improving the accessibility of HIV testing, and addressing the stigma and fear associated with criminalization of HIV.”

A news release notes the discussion forum coincides with World AIDS Day and will bring experts and the community together.

Cécile Kazatchkine, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network will be a panellist. She will speak to the legal issues regarding the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada.

“In 2012, the law became harsher for people living with HIV, who can now be convicted of aggravated sexual assault for not disclosing their status to their sexual partner even if they used a condom,” Kazatchkine said.

“Being exposed to the risk of criminal accusations, even if you take precautions to protect your partner, just creates another reason for people to be reluctant to get tested for HIV.

“Instead of criminalizing people for knowing their status, we should work on removing all barriers to HIV testing, care and support and create an environment where people living with HIV are free from violence, discrimination and stigmatization.”

For more information, visit the ACNL website at www.acnl.net.

Organizations: AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, School of Pharmacy, Canadian Institutes for Health Research Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Geographic location: Canada

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