For the six months of 2017, in all regions of Belarus, especially in Gomel region, the number of criminal prosecution increased drastically for cases of HIV-positive people by Article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (infecting a person with human immunodeficiency virus).
To compare during the period from 2012 to 2016 – 38 cases were reported, and for 6 months of 2017 – more than 50 people were convicted, many of them depart their punishment in places of freedom deprivation.
“Belarusian PLHIV Community” notes that while throughout the country there are calls for HIV testing and self-testing, the campaigns on tolerant attitude, still, the people diagnosed with HIV undergo criminal prosecution. The topic of HIV infection is actively exaggerated by the Belarusian press and outside, thus forming a negative impression of the people living with HIV, causing a new wave of hostility, stigma, and discrimination in the society.
The Article 157 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus was approved in 1999 when HIV infection was considered an incurable disease. Around 20 years have passed, mankind has stepped over to the new century, the medical approaches have changed, highly effective treatment appeared and HIV is no longer a deadly dangerous disease; it was moved to the category of the chronic one, and is well-controlled by antiretroviral treatment. If HIV positive person takes antiretroviral therapy at undetectable viral load, the risk of HIV transmission during sexual contacts decreases practically to zero.
The Article 157 of the Criminal Code consists of three parts:
- The wittingly imposing another person in danger of infecting with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – shall be punished by fine or arrest or freedom deprivation for max three years.
- Infecting another person with HIV by light-mindedness or indirect intent, who knew about the HIV status, shall be punished by freedom deprivation from two to seven years.
- Action envisaged by point 2 of this Article committed against two or more persons, against knowingly underage, or with direct intent – shall be punished by freedom deprivation from five to thirteen years.
People who live in a lawful marriage or pairs are sued under 1st and 2nd points of this Articles, when one of the partners is HIV-positive, even if he/she informed the partner about it, even if the infection fact by one of family members was accepted knowingly and voluntarily.
In accordance with the requirements of Art. 157 of the Criminal Code the discordant marriages are prohibited and are under fear of criminal responsibility, as well as voluntary sexual contacts between people of different HIV status.
In Belarus, presumably, there are 500 discordant pairs. They live and work, multiple the welfare of their country, are respectable taxpayers.
In almost every family there are children under risk of staying in the incomplete families, without parents’ custody, due to the absurd and inhumanity of the enforcement practice.
In Russia, a criminal responsibility is also envisaged for imposing a risk of infecting with HIV by Art. 122 of the Criminal Code. Thanks to active actions of the Russian PLHIV community, in 2003, the article was amended, based on which a person who put the partner in danger of HIV infection, is released from criminal responsibility, “if another person, endangered with HIV infection was in a timely manner warned about the presence of HIV in the first person and voluntarily agreed for activities that create risk of infection”. This amendment to Article 122 of the Criminal Code has released the HIV-positive Russians with confirmed HIV status from criminal persecution.
“Belarusian PLHIV Community” believes that the Article 157 of the Criminal Code contradicts the international and national legal standards. Under the existing legislation, the HIV positive person cannot feel a full value citizen of his/her country. This practice against people living with HIV is discriminatory, and requires speedy addressing on the legislative level of Belarus!
As of September 1, 2017 – 18,438 HIV-positive people are registered in Belarus.