Independant On-line, Proposed HIV law trashed as 'rubbish', 28 January 2004

By Di Caelers

The proposed criminalisation of people who have sex without telling their partners of their HIV status has been slammed as "rubbish" and a "very dangerous approach".

That's the view of Mark Heywood, law and human rights sector representative on the South African National Aids Council, who said the stance had already been opposed by the South African Law Commission after a "lengthy investigation".

This follows a proposal on Monday by Johnny de Lange, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice, that the transmission of HIV become a separate crime.

Heywood responded that the proposal "goes against the recommendations of the World Health Organisation", and that criminalising people with HIV would further stigmatise them.

'That's the view of Mark Heywood'
Previously, according to press reports on De Lange's proposal, recommendations were that anyone who didn't tell a partner they were HIV positive be charged with rape. Even this drew criticism over the threat of further stigmatising HIV and Aids.

Heywood said the most effective way to prevent HIV transmission "in those circumstances", would be much better investment in voluntary counselling and testing, and promotion of safer sex combined with better services for women.

"We need shelters so that if women decline sex and are kicked out of home by their male partners, they have somewhere to go," he said.

Heywood described De Lange's proposal as a "very dangerous kneejerk reaction that would do damage, and no good". "We call for that to be withdrawn urgently," he said.

This article was originally published on page 2 of The Cape Argus on January 28, 2004




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