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Ask yourself, would you risk it?

by Robin Della Corte October 16, 2012
Ask yourself, would you risk it?

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that those infected with Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) won’t always have to inform their sexual partners of their diagnosis.

Back in 1998, people were obliged to be upfront to their partners regarding whether or not they had HIV. if you didn’t, you could be charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Now, more than a decade later, the Supreme Court stated that as long as you are wearing a condom and taking medication that is treating your disease, you no longer have to tell your partner if you have HIV because “there is no reasonable risk of transmission.”

For those not familiar with HIV, it is a virus that “targets certain immune cell types and destroys them thereby crippling the immune system,” said Sophia Ushinsky, a professor of biology at Concordia University.

Ushinsky said that in most cases, taking treatments can cause complications and doesn’t always guarantee the person to be risk free of transmitting the disease.

“HIV is a retrovirus. This class of viruses has a high level of mutation,” she said. “This can result in the virus acquiring a change that makes it insensitive to antiviral therapies.”

HIV has been intensively researched over the last 30 years and there is still no cure or vaccine. Ushinsky continued to say that “each cell the virus infects, the viral genome becomes integrated in the DNA of the person it infects and remains there until that particular cell is dead and destroyed by the body. The virus itself can replicate very rapidly.”

A main concern is that by requiring people infected with the virus to disclose their condition only “if there is a ‘realistic possibility’ a sex partner might become infected,” it infringes on the rights of those who are not infected.

I’m pretty sure any individual would like to know whether or not their partner has HIV, even if they’re being treated and wearing a condom. The problem here is that the Supreme Court is completely taking away the right of the uninfected individual to make an informed decision on whether or not to have sexual relations with an infected partner.

In an article published in the Chronicle Herald, it was stated that the evidence showed that when the “‘viral load’ — which measures HIV in the blood — of the infected person was low, due to proper treatment, risk of transmission dropped by more than 85 per cent.” The court also reported that data retrieved showed that by wearing a condom, the risk is reduced by 80 per cent. This, to the court, means that by wearing a condom and taking proper medication, the risk of transmission becomes “speculative, not realistic.”

I do not understand this decision at all. Everyone has a right to information that will essentially help them make a choice in their life. By taking away this information, people do not have the ability to make the best choice.

Ushinsky went on to say that she worries about “the compliance of the patient in taking their medications.”

“Some of these drugs have serious side effects and a person’s immune status may have an effect on the disease course. Not knowing how often patients are monitored for changes in viral load makes me uneasy as a change reflects a change in infection status which may be asymptomatic.”

The Supreme Court seems to have a lack of sympathy and judgement when it comes to sex. In many cases, a condom can break and can be up to zero per cent effective if not used properly.

So brace yourselves boys and girls, HIV isn’t something you want to live with for the rest of your life, and once that condom breaks, there’s no going back.

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