Liar Liar Pants On Fire
Thank you for your contribution to HIV disclosure to sex partners.
The Young Offenders Act of Canada which protects the identity of children under the age of eighteen years, served itself well, as described in an article on CBC news by Blair Rhodes, on Nov 16, 2013. The identity of the two adolescents was withheld from the public. However, the title of the article, and the connotations behind the title, which fuel public fear and stigma, left a lot to be desired – “HIV-positive teen not guilty of sexual assault despite lie.”
What shocking headlines, an adolescent told a lie. Do you know an adolescent who has not told a lie? Place the complications of living with HIV on a child along with adolescent pressure for acceptance and honesty at times is going to be put to the test. Adolescents living with HIV cannot realistically be expected to carry the burden of HIV disclosure to sex partners alone. Imagine a teenager with raging hormones who needs and wants to be accepted by peers, setting themselves up for rejection by peers while dashing any hopes of ever having sex and intimacy, by disclosing their HIV status! This is an overwhelming responsibility, which needs to be addressed by the community at large, not by a child in isolation.
Why not celebrate the news of the child getting acquitted of criminal charges because scientific evidence was presented to explain the epidemiology of HIV? Why not report about the progress of HIV epidemiology rather than begin the article with focus on a”lie”? Does this not reinforce stigma, fear and subsequent overall increases in transmission rates of HIV? Adolescents do not need to be presented with fear, they need to be presented with options, including regular HIV testing without fear of the possibility of one day being criminalized and publicly labelled a liar. There still remains a need for public education about HIV.
(Identity Protected by The Young Offenders Act of Canada)