Parliament has agreed not to pursue legislation that would specifically make it a crime for HIV-infected persons to purposely spread the virus.
The National Assembly yesterday adopted the report of a special select committee of Parliament which rejected a motion, moved since last year July by Guyana Action Party- Rise Organise and Rebuild (GAP-ROAR) MP Everall Franklin, to criminalise the wilful transmission of HIV.
Presenting the report, Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said that while the consensus was that the wilfully spreading HIV is unacceptable and criminal, there are general criminal laws adequate to address this offence. He added that while the spread of HIV is a problem, it cannot be resolved by criminalisation.
“Criminalisation of HIV transmission has not been proven to prevent the spread of HIV, it merely encourages individuals not to get tested and increases the stigma and discrimination against those who are positive,” he said.
Ramsammy said the decision reached by the committee was unanimous, with members generally reflecting the presentations of organizations and individuals who made their views known.
The Joint United Nations Team on AIDS, coordinated by the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has congratulated the Parliamentary Committee for its decision.
“Such a law would have deepened the climate of denial, secrecy and fear surrounding the virus in Guyana and in so doing reduce people’s willingness to learn their status and access treatment and support,” it said in a statement yesterday.
At the end of 2010, the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women was 0.88 percent compared to 7.1 percent in 1995, in 2000, more than 850 women who give birth to babies were infected with HIV, in 2010 that number has significantly decreased to 101, a reduction of over 88 percent. In 2000, over 200 babies were born with HIV but that number dropped to eight in 2009.