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Criminalization of people living with HIV abolished in Belarus

December 20, 2018

A historic moment for Belarus community of people living with HIV – on Dec 19, the most important amendment to article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus was adopted. This amendment removes the responsibility of an HIV-positive person who has warned his partner about the infection, in the case of a recorded fact of HIV transmission.

It is noteworthy that in 2017, 130 criminal cases were initiated throughout the country under Article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, and in the first half of 2018 – 48.

So, on this very day deputies of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus adopted three bills in the second reading. One of them was the Law “On introducing amendments and addenda to some codes of the Republic of Belarus”. Among other changes, an amendment to article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus was adopted, according to which people who had warned their partners would not be held criminally responsible for posing a threat of HIV transmission and HIV infection. Previously, Article 157 provided for criminal liability for posing a threat of HIV transmission, even if the injured person had no complaints against the respondent, and infectionists initiated a criminal case.

Anatoly Leshenok, a representative of the People Plus NGO and an active advocate for the rights of people living with HIV, said: “The adopted changes are only the first step in achieving our goal of decriminalizing HIV transmission. According to information received from the department for the preparation of draft laws, other, more drastic changes to article 157 of the Criminal Code of Belarus did not receive approval from some government structures. It is necessary to continue to work further with these institutions and the society as a whole on the formation of a more tolerant attitude towards people living with HIV in Belarus. But already those changes that have been supported are definitely a success for all of us and a confident step towards the practice of the world community in respecting human rights!”.

After approval by the Council of the Republic and the President, the amendments that have entered into power will make it possible to revise the sentences of the courts, as well as to plan their lives for people without regard to the Criminal Code.

Remarkably that in July 2018 at the 22nd International Conference on AIDS in Amsterdam, researchers from around the world got together to prepare and publish a consensus statement of scientific experts in the field of studying the HIV epidemic in the context of criminal law, which is now available in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS). The paper presented scientific evidence that criminalization is a direct threat to the response to HIV.

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