Call to remove Danish Penal Code on HIV transmission

Published: March 31, 2011

Dear Minister of Justice, Mr. Lars Barfoed and Minister of Health, Mr. Bertel Haarder

We, the undersigned, non-governmental and community-based organisations,
national and regional networks working on HIV and AIDS congratulate you on
your wise decision to suspend section 252 (2) and (3) of the Danish Penal Code
on HIV and AIDS.

The remarkable progress in treatment options for people living with HIV that
allows for the possibility of a normal life expectancy, and greatly reduces the
possibility of exposing others to HIV is certainly a good reason to reconsider the
law on HIV and AIDS.

However, in your important work on the revision of the Danish law, we strongly
urge you to consider whether the particular section in the Penal Code that
relates specifically to HIV exposure or transmission should exist at all. HIV
exposure or transmission should not be singled out for special consideration as a
criminal offence but should be treated in the same manner as other serious
communicable diseases.

Punitive laws on HIV and AIDS undercut basic HIV prevention and sexual health
messages and are ineffective in reducing the spread of HIV. Since HIV mainly
spreads from persons not aware of their HIV status, such laws only fuel
ignorance, fear, stigma and discrimination against people aware they are living
with the virus. We strongly believe such laws are counterproductive since they
lessen the likelihood that individuals will learn their HIV status and access
treatment.

In our opinion, consistent with rational, public health-based policy, only
intentional transmission of a serious communicable disease should be
criminalised. In addition, we strongly suggest that the Danish Government
support efforts that emphasise shared responsibility for HIV prevention and the
importance of providing comprehensive prevention and care services for people
living with HIV to help reduce the risk of transmission to others.

Yours sincerely,

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