July 12, 2010
Even as international experts condemn the practice, criminalization of transmission of STDs has taken hold in Mexico.
"It's an issue that just hasn't been raised forcefully enough and so the state has not reacted," said Mario Juárez, of the department of analysis and proposals of the state National Council to Prevent Discrimination. "Civil society organizations should take up the question and air it in public," Juárez said.
Under Mexico's federal law, a model for state legislation, it is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to pass along an STD or incurable disease. Of Mexico's 32 states, 30 have laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV.
"This is an alarming situation. HIV transmission should not be criminalized," said José Aguilar, national coordinator of Red Democracia y Sexualidad. "It is a discriminatory practice that lends itself to the continued justification of attitudes like homophobia," said Aguilar, whose organization focuses on sexual education and sexual rights advocacy.
There has been no move to enforce such laws, which is generally believed to be why there is no impetus to remove them.
The international community has long spoken out against the criminalization of HIV transmission. In 2007, a document entitled "Ten Reasons for Opposing Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission" received the imprimatur of UNAIDS and the UN Development Program. The document reflected the position of a coalition of advocates on HIV/AIDS, human rights, and gender issues.
"The push to apply criminal law to HIV exposure and transmission is often driven by the wish to respond to serious concerns about the ongoing rapid spread of HIV in many countries, coupled by what is perceived to be a failure of existing HIV prevention efforts," the document states.
World health leaders are expected to revisit the issue when they meet July 18-23 in Vienna for the 18th International AIDS Conference.