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      Canadian consensus statement on HIV and its transmission in the context of criminal law

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          Many individuals involved in the legal process regarding prosecution of HIV-positive individuals who do not disclose their HIV status lack a thorough understanding of the risk for HIV transmission in different circumstances; this lack of knowledge may have a significant effect on the application of the criminal law to individuals with HIV. This consensus statement, intended as a reference for individuals involved in the criminal justice system and endorsed by >70 leading HIV experts in Canada, summarizes the risks for transmission of HIV under various circumstances, on a continuum ranging from low possibility to zero possibility of transmission.



          A poor appreciation of the science related to HIV contributes to an overly broad use of the criminal law against individuals living with HIV in cases of HIV nondisclosure.


          To promote an evidence-informed application of the law in Canada, a team of six Canadian medical experts on HIV and transmission led the development of a consensus statement on HIV sexual transmission, HIV transmission associated with biting and spitting, and the natural history of HIV infection. The statement is based on a literature review of the most recent and relevant scientific evidence (current as of December 2013) regarding HIV and its transmission. It has been endorsed by >70 additional Canadian HIV experts and the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada.


          Scientific and medical evidence clearly indicate that HIV is difficult to transmit during sex. For the purpose of informing the justice system, the per-act possibility of HIV transmission through sex, biting or spitting is described along a continuum from low possibility, to negligible possibility, to no possibility of transmission. This possibility takes into account the impact of factors such as the type of sexual acts, condom use, antiretroviral therapy and viral load. Dramatic advances in HIV therapy have transformed HIV infection into a chronic manageable condition.


          HIV physicians and scientists have a professional and ethical responsibility to assist those in the criminal justice system to understand and interpret the science regarding HIV. This is critical to prevent miscarriage of justice and to remove unnecessary barriers to evidence-based HIV prevention strategies.

          Translated abstract

          INTRODUCTION :

          En raison, entre autres, d’une mauvaise appréciation des données scientifiques liées au VIH, la justice criminelle est beaucoup trop mise à contribution contre les personnes qui vivent avec le VIH et ne divulguent pas leur séropositivité.

          MÉTHODOLOGIE :

          Afin de promouvoir une application de la loi canadienne fondée sur des données probantes, une équipe de six experts médicaux canadiens du VIH et de sa transmission a élaboré un énoncé de consensus sur la transmission sexuelle du VIH, sa transmission par les morsures ou les crachats et son évolution naturelle. Cet énoncé repose sur une analyse bibliographique des données scientifiques les plus récentes et les plus pertinentes (en décembre 2013) au sujet du VIH et de sa transmission. Il est appuyé par plus de 70 autres experts du VIH au Canada et par l’Association pour la microbiologie médicale et l’infectiologie Canada.

          RÉSULTATS :

          Les données scientifiques et médicales établissent clairement que le VIH est difficile à transmettre pendant les relations sexuelles. Afin d’informer le système judiciaire, la possibilité réelle de transmission lors d’une relation sexuelle, d’une morsure ou d’un crachat est décrite le long d’un continuum de faible possibilité, de possibilité négligeable et d’aucune possibilité de transmission. Ce continuum tient compte des effets de facteurs comme le type d’acte sexuel, l’utilisation de condoms, la thérapie antirétrovirale et la charge virale. Les progrès considérables en matière de traitement du VIH ont transformé l’infection par le VIH en une maladie chronique gérable.

          EXPOSÉ :

          Les médecins et les chercheurs spécialisés en VIH ont la responsabilité professionnelle et éthique d’aider les acteurs du système de justice criminelle à comprendre et interpréter la recherche sur le VIH. C’est essentiel pour éviter les erreurs judiciaires et pour écarter tout obstacle inutile aux stratégies de prévention du VIH fondées sur des données probantes.

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          Most cited references 10

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          Mortality in well controlled HIV in the continuous antiretroviral therapy arms of the SMART and ESPRIT trials compared with the general population.

          Due to the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART), it is relevant to ask whether death rates in optimally treated HIV are higher than the general population. The objective was to compare mortality rates in well controlled HIV-infected adults in the SMART and ESPRIT clinical trials with the general population. Non-IDUs aged 20-70 years from the continuous ART control arms of ESPRIT and SMART were included if the person had both low HIV plasma viral loads (≤400 copies/ml SMART, ≤500 copies/ml ESPRIT) and high CD4(+) T-cell counts (≥350 cells/μl) at any time in the past 6 months. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated by comparing death rates with the Human Mortality Database. Three thousand, two hundred and eighty individuals [665 (20%) women], median age 43 years, contributed 12,357 person-years of follow-up. Sixty-two deaths occurred during follow up. Commonest cause of death was cardiovascular disease (CVD) or sudden death (19, 31%), followed by non-AIDS malignancy (12, 19%). Only two deaths (3%) were AIDS-related. Mortality rate was increased compared with the general population with a CD4(+) cell count between 350 and 499 cells/μl [SMR 1.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.17-2.55]. No evidence for increased mortality was seen with CD4(+) cell counts greater than 500 cells/μl (SMR 1.00, 95% CI 0.69-1.40). In HIV-infected individuals on ART, with a recent undetectable viral load, who maintained or had recovery of CD4(+) cell counts to at least 500 cells/μl, we identified no evidence for a raised risk of death compared with the general population.
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            Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission.

            The amount of protection that condoms provide for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is unknown. Cohort studies of sexually active HIV serodiscordant couples with follow-up of the seronegative partner, provide a situation in which a seronegative partner has known exposure to the disease and disease incidence can be estimated. When some individuals use condoms and some do not, namely some individuals use condoms 100% of the time and some never use (0%) condoms, condom effectiveness can be estimated by comparing the two incidence rates. Condom effectiveness is the proportionate reduction in disease due to the use of condoms. The objective of this review is to estimate condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual transmission of HIV. Studies were located using electronic databases (AIDSLINE, CINAHL, Embase, and MEDLINE) and handsearched reference lists. For inclusion, studies had to have: (1) data concerning sexually active HIV serodiscordant heterosexual couples, (2) a longitudinal study design, (3) HIV status determined by serology, and (4) contain condom usage information on a cohort of always (100%) or never (0%) condom users. Studies identified through the above search strategy that met the inclusion criteria were reviewed for inclusion in the analysis. Sample sizes, number of seroconversions, and the person-years of disease-free exposure time were recorded for each cohort. If available, the direction of transmission in the cohort (male-to-female, female-to-male), date of study enrollment, source of infection in the index case, and the presence of other STDs was recorded. Duplicate reports on the same cohort and studies with incomplete or nonsepecific information were excluded. HIV incidence was estimated from the cohorts of "always" users and for the cohorts of "never" users. Effectiveness was estimated from these two incidence estimates. Of the 4709 references that were initially identified, 14 were included in the final analysis. There were 13 cohorts of "always" users that yielded an homogeneous HIV incidence estimate of 1.14 [95% C.I.:.56, 2.04] per 100 person-years. There were 10 cohorts of "never" users that appeared to be heterogeneous. The studies with the longest follow-up time, consisting mainly of studies of partners of hemophiliac and transfusion patients, yielded an HIV incidence estimate of 5.75 [95% C.I.: 3.16, 9.66] per 100 person-years. Overall effectiveness, the proportionate reduction in HIV seroconversion with condom use, is approximately 80%. This review indicates that consistent use of condoms results in 80% reduction in HIV incidence. Consistent use is defined as using a condom for all acts of penetrative vaginal intercourse. Because the studies used in this review did not report on the "correctness" of use, namely whether condoms were used correctly and perfectly for each and every act of intercourse, effectiveness and not efficacy is estimated. Also, this estimate refers in general to the male condom and not specifically to the latex condom, since studies also tended not to specify the type of condom that was used. Thus, condom effectiveness is similar to, although lower than, that for contraception.
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              Per-contact probability of HIV transmission in homosexual men in Sydney in the era of HAART.

              The objective of this study is to estimate per-contact probability of HIV transmission in homosexual men due to unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the era of HAART. Data were collected from a longitudinal cohort study of community-based HIV-negative homosexual men in Sydney, Australia. A total of 1427 participants were recruited from June 2001 to December 2004. They were followed up with 6-monthly detailed behavioral interviews and annual testing for HIV till June 2007. Data were used in a bootstrapping method, coupled with a statistical analysis that optimized a likelihood function for estimating the per-exposure risks of HIV transmission due to various forms of UAI. During the study, 53 HIV seroconversion cases were identified. The estimated per-contact probability of HIV transmission for receptive UAI was 1.43% [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.48-2.85] if ejaculation occurred inside the rectum, and it was 0.65% (95% CI 0.15-1.53) if withdrawal prior to ejaculation was involved. The estimated transmission rate for insertive UAI in participants who were circumcised was 0.11% (95% CI 0.02-0.24), and it was 0.62% (95% CI 0.07-1.68) in uncircumcised men. Thus, receptive UAI with ejaculation was found to be approximately twice as risky as receptive UAI with withdrawal or insertive UAI for uncircumcised men and over 10 times as risky as insertive UAI for circumcised men. Despite the fact that a high proportion of HIV-infected men are on antiretroviral treatment and have undetectable viral load, the per-contact probability of HIV transmission due to UAI is similar to estimates reported from developed country settings in the pre-HAART era.

                Author and article information

                Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol
                Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol
                The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases & Medical Microbiology
                Pulsus Group Inc
                May-Jun 2014
                : 25
                : 3
                : 135-140
                [1 ]Women’s College Research Institute, University of Toronto (Co-chair of the Canadian Experts on HIV and Transmission Team), Toronto;
                [2 ]Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Ottawa (Co-chair of the Canadian Experts on HIV and Transmission Team), Ottawa, Ontario;
                [3 ]University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec;
                [4 ]Division of AIDS, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia;
                [5 ]Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario;
                [6 ]Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                Correspondence and reprints: Dr Mona Loutfy, Women’s College Research Institute, Women and HIV Research Program, 790 Bay Street, 7th floor, Suite 743, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1N8. Telephone 416-465-0756 ext 02, fax 416-351-3746, e-mail mona.loutfy@ 123456wchospital.ca
                Copyright© 2014 Pulsus Group Inc. All rights reserved

                This open-access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits reuse, distribution and reproduction of the article, provided that the original work is properly cited and the reuse is restricted to noncommercial purposes. For commercial reuse, contact support@ 123456pulsus.com

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