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​CFMS opposes “criminalization” of HIV infection​

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students has spoken out against the “criminalization” of HIV infection.

A new position statement adopted following extensive debate and by a narrow margin states that ‘the criminalization of HIV increases … stigma and discrimination, undermines public health efforts to respond to HIV at a population level, and jeopardizes the health and human rights of those living with HIV.”

The policy adds that “standing up against the broad criminalization of HIV is not the same as a support for non-disclosure of an individual’s sexual health history,” and notes “the CFMS cannot overstate the importance of the consent process.”

Foremost in the recommendations from the paper is urging the federal and provincial governments to implement guidelines that “limit, clarify, and harmonize the application of criminal law for transmission of HIV” and to “implement anonymous HIV testing programs in all provinces and territories if prosecution continues in a similar manner to the present.”

This issue was by far the most extensively debated resolution at the association’s annual meeting in Kingston, ON. While supporters of the move felt it was necessary to publish a paper on the issue, opponents questioned the appropriateness of the CFMS taking a stance on this topic and were also concerned about the accuracy of some of the information contained in the document. However, there was general agreement that the current law needed to be re-evaluated.

Another resolution that prompted debate at the meeting was an update of the federation’s tobacco policy which had only addressed cigarillos in its earlier iteration.

The new policy which was adopted at the meeting deals with a wide range of tobacco control and nicotine addiction issues and calls for a total ban on smoking on medical school campuses.

The call for this ban was questioned by some delegates who felt it was elitist and others who felt there should be more emphasis on harm reduction strategies.

Another resolution adopted at the meeting updated the CFMS 2010 national pharmaceutical strategy policy to emphasize concern about drug shortages and including a recommendation urging the federal government to consider the challenge of pharmaceutical drug shortages as a federal priority.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.