A 34-year-old man from Vancouver, Canada has been charged by officials for ignoring a medical professional’s HIV treatment.
Authorities charged him under the Public Health Act, which is a rare action.
‘I cannot impress upon you to what extent this is an unusual step for us to take. This is not the norm,’ said Dr. Reka Gustafson. She is the medical director of communicable disease control in the city.
Gustafson further said the man is not being charged under the Criminal Code, but rather to protect public health.
‘Criminal prosecution is not appropriate for HIV,’ she said about the case. ‘It’s not appropriate for communicable diseases — period. It’s not appropriate and it’s not effective.’
According to court documents, the man did not collect his prescribed medication or attend appointments.
Putting safety above all else
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control published a set of guidelines about HIV/AIDS and public health risks.
According to the guidelines, medical professionals can issues orders like this one if they ‘reasonably believe that the person continues to pose a risk of harm to others, and voluntary and other measures have been exhausted’.
The guidelines are primarily for people who engage in risky behaviors without informing others of their infection. According to the court document, the man was supposed to attend daily appoiments once the virus reached a high point in his bloodstream.
This is the first time Gustafson and her office have gone to the courts to make someone comply with medical orders.
‘You don’t take a step like this lightly or without consultation with colleagues, with individuals who would have concerns about taking this step,’ she explained. ‘The order wouldn’t be very meaningful if you weren’t able to enforce that order with potential support of the courts.’