December 18, 2012

A CHRISMAS "CAROL" FROM AN HIV-CRIMINALIZED ADVOCATE

This post was published at:
http://blogs.poz.com/louisgay/
18th of December 2012.


It's been 383 days since I first addressed HIV-criminalization through telling my personal story in public. And personal it was!


Looking back, I can easily see how I been trying to transform my personal experience with the law into a general advocacy against HIV-criminalization. Only partly successful, I would say. Because despite my efforts, the “international HIV-decriminalization
 movement” seems to need me more as a “poster boy” than a political advocate. And maybe they're right? After all, there are a lot more skilled HIV advocates than there are people living with HIV who wants to share their meeting with the law.

Back then, I decided to tell my story because I believed there would be a lot of others out there with similar experiences or at least living in terror of ending up with one. By sharing I thought I would put a missing face to the pressure a lot of people living with HIV probably must feel. I was not entirely wrong. Even though I also encountered people living with HIV who was less grateful. Some feels that me going public made their sexual life more difficult. Before they red my story, they had no idea how vulnerable they are in front of the law. Now that they know, they do feel fear and this has inflicted negatively on their sexual life.

There is a time for fighting and a time for reflecting. 
I don't even know how to explain what amount of energy it takes to prepare yourself mentally for an upcoming trial. I only know a few people in this world who share that experience with me. Having my case postponed, no matter what reasons, made me realize a few things.

Getting ready to finally defend myself in court, was like blowing air into a balloon. Loosing that opportunity in front of my nose, having it postponed, was like putting a needle to it. Afterward I felt like one of those used condoms on the sidewalk. Someone obviously had a good time with it, but no one cared to pick it up.

I mistakenly thought that being prosecuted at least meant I had the prosecutors attention. So was not the case I experienced one week before the trial was about to start.
I should probably not patronize the opponent in my own trial and for what I now this might be common, but there is a point to it. At least from my perspective as prosecuted in a highly disputable case like mine.

Reading the Norwegian governmental appointed law-commission's recommendation, this October, on how to continue to to criminalize people with HIV more or less the same way as we do today, called for a long period of reflection.

Their arguments dismisses recommendations from organizations like UNAIDS and WHO on decriminalizing risk of transmission, based on poor empirical and evidence based material. At the same time they argue in favor of their own recommendation that it's in compliance to peoples general feeling of justice and that using general laws instead of specific ones would make it to hard to convict HIV “criminals”, due to the stricter rules of evidence.

This confirms an already existing suspicion of mine. The battle is as much a fight about a cultural way of thinking, as it is about empirical and evidence based research. Unfortunately this makes me less optimistic. I believe it to be more difficult to change politics based on cultural conservatism, than politics purely based on the best science and experience available at the time.

Getting crazy ideas?
Putting it all together, sometimes gives me a “crazy” idea. If my experiences and conclusions are even remotely correct? That is; being a person living with HIV risking to be subjected to a criminal law, either your saliva is considered a weapon of terror (USA) or conducting “safer sex” recommended to you by public services (Norway, Austria). You have to accept that the legal system lives a life of its own, sometimes difficult to predict and understand. Sometimes not even logical to the average man and woman. Therefor you are definitely best of avoiding it.

The obvious answer to that advice, is of course to act accordingly to the criminal laws. But for people living with HIV, that's easier said than done. I believe there are enough examples by now, to prove that the legal systems in several countries, are quite unreliable when it comes to HIV. So, why don't we educate people with HIV to prepare themselves to avoid any unnecessary encounter with it. By suggesting that, I am not defending intentional transmission of the virus. I am merely stating that the recommendations from both leading organizations and scientific communities are yet to be incorporated in some of your legal systems, and that we should not be paying the prize for that.

With my knowledge and experience today, I don't believe I will ever find myself in the same situation again. Not because I'll promise to never let anyone suck my dick without a condom (I will of course patiently wait until the Norwegian parliament adopts the newly recommended law and then bring my Saturday night date down to the emergency, to get the demanded healthcare approval that my date is sane and aware of the risk. First then let him go down on me). But because I simply would have known that giving a statement to the police, at all, gave the prosecutor the one sentence they needed to indict me. Instead I should probably have used my legal rights to not give a statement, leaving it to the police and prosecutor to prove my “criminal” actions. I think they would had a hard time finding a witness in that bedroom?

It's necessary to fight politically to change obstacles that's making it harder to live with HIV. Even if it takes a lot of time. But imagine what a great present it could be to people with HIV, if those of us with the experience and knowledge would care to share it in public. Giving both general and specific advices about what to do and not to do to avoid any unnecessary contact with criminal laws. And if you are unfortunate enough to be subjected to any of those laws in your own country, have a place to seek out first hand experiences and advices. Maybe that have would provided some kind of consolation and security, while we all are waiting for our respective countries to reach the inevitable conclusion. HIV-criminalization is not helping anyone in the end.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

November 30, 2012

A PRIVILEGE TO SPEAK TO HIGHSCHOOL STUDENTS

Every once in a while I get the privilege of speaking directly to the up-growing generation. 

So was the case in this video published today at the Norwegian digital learning arena. An educationel interactive platform for all highschools in Norway.

http://ndla.no/nb/node/109252

My message is basically this:

"I have nothing against that sexually active grownups choose to take the risk of getting HIV. I just want that before they do, they have thought true the consequences of their choice. If their conclusion are that they don't want to take that chance, they should take the responsibility of protecting themselves. Not leave it to the world around them. Living a good life with HIV is absolutely achievable, but I wouldn't recommend anyone to get it!

HAPPY WORLD AIDS DAY 2012

October 29, 2012

REGARDING THE NORWEGIAN LAW COMMISSION REPORT ON CRIMINAL LAW AND THE TRANSMISSION OF DISEASE

Minister of Health and leader of the Law committee
Honestly it has taken me some time to “swallow” the Report. I don't find the Commissions proposal to a new penal code very controversial. To me it's a slight improvement to the old one (§ 155) and to the § 237/238 which never been used. The main reason is how they still want to continue to criminalize the risk of transmission, next to transmission itself. Just like we always have.

As “crumbs to the poor” they have proposed to raise the level for when the law should be used against people living with HIV. But in my experience, it's little comfort in this.

I've been told that with this new penal code, I would never have been prosecuted? I'm not convinced. One of the things we'll have to fight the prosecutor about in my upcoming trial, is how they came to the conclusion that my actions where (and still are considered as) intentional negligence? When professionals within the same justice system can interpret one single action in so different ways as they have in my case, why should we feel safer with the committee's new “reckless behavior”? Justice is not mathematically science, it's subjective interpretations.

Proposing a new penal code (even though they have “softened” it), means that the majority of the committee and their followers must have a complete trust in the justice system, including police investigators, prosecutors and judges to be without any prejudice against people living with HIV and their “true” attention when having sex.

The majority of the committee still reviews the risk of transmission as a punishable act of behavior. Believing it will have an influence to how people living with HIV conduct their sex life in a safer way. They are suggesting that the penal code should apply when you expose two or more people to the risk of infection or if you are found to have had a reckless behavior. The exceptions that should exempt from criminal responsibility includes: having your partner consent in the presence of health care personnel or when proper infection control measures have been taken (like use of condom with sexual intercourse) and practicing “safer sex”.

The committee has chosen to dismiss advices from UN, UNAIDS and other international organization about not criminalizing the risk of transmission, because the lack of substantial research. Instead they argue that a continuous criminalization is in compliance with peoples general feelings of justice. Neither do they find medical treatment sufficient enough to exempt from criminal liability?

I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a doctor or in any other way academically educated to call myself an expert, when it comes to HIV. I just happens to live with it. But others more skilled than me have made some interesting comments to the Report, like:

Law Professor Matthew Weait:

http://weait.typepad.com/blog/2012/10/some-reflections-on-norways-law-commission-report-on-criminal-law-and-the-transmission-of-disease-.html

Gus Cairns at NAM aidsmap:

http://www.aidsmap.com/Viral-load-will-be-no-defence-against-prosecution-in-Norway/page/2542359/
 
Edwin J. Bernard at HIV Justice Network: 

http://criminalhivtransmission.blogspot.de/2012/10/norway-long-awaited-law-commission.html
 
Interview with Kim Fangen, one of the Committee members: 

http://www.hivjustice.net/site/news/?a=4d90201cbf72d8e0b5787fbb7534d10e



To put it in to perspective. I visited my HIV specialized doctor a couple of weeks ago to talk about my latest blood samples. After seeing him I had to visit a nurse to agree on when to do my next sample.
This takes place in the Infection Department of the University Hospital of Oslo, where all the people in need of medical treatment and many newly infected gets their HIV-guidance.

On her table among a lot of different brochures I find the same brochure about men who have sex with men and how to practice “safer sex” to avoid STD's and HIV, that I picked up when I first got my diagnose.

I found the page where it explains how oral intercourse can be practiced as long as it don't involve any cum. I put it in front of her and said something like:

-Why are you still giving out this one? You know by now that this information is illegal according to Norwegian law and the public prosecutors. I know that the advices given by medical staff and the law sometimes differs, but is it not time for you people to start talking to each other?


Even if I should get acquitted at my trial in February 2013, two peoples life have been changed forever. And with it friendships, family and work. It might not be important to the greater good of the society, but it sure as hell should be important to everybody living with HIV or in the danger zone of getting it.

October 10, 2012

MY TRIAL HAS BEEN POSTPONED

My trial 15th and 16th of October has been postponed.


På norsk her:

http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/2012/10/rettsaken-min-er-utsatt.html

 
Yesterday it was clear that the trial against me next week, will be postponed. New date is yet unknown.
 
 
See the indicment here:
 
http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/2012/03/indictment-decision-by-state-attorney.html

The complainant and the prosecution's main witness has previously withdrawn the prosecution request and wished for the case to be closed. This is not possible with the the penal code that is used in this case and the indictment against me have been maintained.

The complainant has decided to leave the country for a longer period of time waiting for the trial negotiations to finish in court.

Both the defense counsel, the prosecutor and the court agreed that the case can not be processed without the comlainant present, in person, for his immediate explanation is necessary for a proper clarification of the case.

There is now a medical report from a court-appointed independent expert. It is again confirmed that the comlainant's infection did not originate from me. After specific questions from my defender it is otherwise determined by the expert that I, in practice, could not have exposed an already HIV-infected person for risk of infection, - so even within the strict legal framework of applicable Norwegian laws, my defender is now looking for my "crime ".

RETTSAKEN MIN ER UTSATT

Rettsaken min den 15. og 16. oktober har blitt utsatt.


Les på engelsk her:

http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/2012/10/my-trial-has-been-postponed_3360.html



I går ble det klart at rettsaken mot meg neste uke, blir utsatt. Ny dato er ennå ukjent.


Les tiltalen her:

http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/p/omsider-tiltalt-av-statsadvokaten-i.html

Fornærmede og påtalemyndighetens hovedvitne har tidligere trukket påtalebegjæringen og ønsket at saken skal avsluttes. Dette er ikke mulig etter den loven som blir brukt i saken og tiltalen mot meg har blitt opprettholdt.
Fornærmede har valgt å forlate landet for en lenger periode i påvente av at saken skal ferdigforhandles i retten.

Både forsvarer, aktor og retten er enige om at saken ikke kan behandles uten at fornærmede er til stede personlig, for hans umiddelbare forklaring er nødvendig for en forsvarlig opplysning av saken.

Det foreligger nå en medisinsk utredning fra en rettsoppnevnt uavhengig sakkyndig. Det er igjen bekreftet at fornærmedes smitte ikke stammer fra meg. Etter konkret spørsmål fra min forsvarer er det ellers fastslått av den sakkyndige at jeg i praksis ikke kan ha utsatt en allerede hiv-smittet person for smittefare, - så selv innenfor den strengt juridiske rammen av gjeldende norsk straffelov leter min forsvarer nå etter min "forbrytelse".

September 11, 2012

ARTICLE IN FRONTIERS L.A. 6TH OF SEPT. 2012

This article was written for the american FRONTIERS L.A. and published 6th of September here:
 
 
 

RAISING YOUR VOICE CAN BE RAISING THE ODDS OF SUCCESS…
Convincing the population of a country and their politicians, that there is a link between how they treat a minority group as people living with HIV, their laws and all it symbols, is kind of a challenge. But with international help and among them some very experienced people from the US, things are slowly starting to move in a better direction here in Norway.
 
 
 
By Louis Gay

We have an old expression in Norway saying something about how a small bump sometimes can topple a big load. When I started raising my voice in public media November 30th 2011, I felt like a very small bump.

As a charged HIV-positive I would be the first one ever to do this and one of very few positive’s at all to argue back at the state in national media. Nordic countries have a long tradition in trusting the state to take care of us. This also applies when it comes to how we trust the law to prevent society from HIV. All responsibility lies with the one carrying the virus. Discloser does not protect you from the law, because we think it does not protect the society from HIV.

The loneliness changed in February 2012, during the UNAIDS conference in Oslo. I was invited to tell my story at a pre-conference working with the Oslo declaration at the time. In that room I met experts, activists and organizations from all over the world, working against HIV-crimanalization. People like your own Sean Strub and Robert Struttle from the Sero project, Edwin J. Bernard from HIV justice network and Professor Matthew Wait from England. Even people from the Nordic countries and Norway, was there fighting criminalization of HIV. I was not alone anymore.

Most of these people have included me in their networks and shared their experiences with me. Enlightened me and supported my fight in Norway. This summer Sero project and HIV justice network invited me to AIDS2012 in Washington to share my story among other Americans in the same position as myself. Lacking the money to participate they put me up with amazing people in Frontiers Media to get a free pass to the conference as a media representative. People to house me for free during the entire conference and of course the interviews and panel debate.

Like I said at the criminalization panel during the conference; “Success is a hard thing to measure.” What I do know is that slowly politicians are participating in the debate against HIV-criminalization in our national media. Now they dare to say my name and talk to me. Even I am facing trial in October. Media are contacting me to listen to my views on HIV-criminalization and stigma. The debate is full of different perspectives. Some less accurate than others, but there is now finally a debate. Even among people living with HIV, there are different views when it comes to criminalization. Skilled people like those I was so lucky to meet at the conference in Oslo and during AIDS2012 in Washington, must never stop recruiting and educating new members to this fight. Not all of us have the time and recourses to invent all the arguments and read all the science by ourselves. We have the power and will to stand up, but not to be alone for a very long time. It is simply too expensive on a personal level.

In a huge international community of people working for a better future for those living with HIV, I sometimes feel small and insignificant. But I am not, am I? Thru the privilege of being part of something bigger, people like me get a mirror which reflects and adjust the work we do.

There are so many ways to influence politics. Raising your voice can be one of them. But it is easier when you are not alone. Maybe, just maybe we are about to topple a big load?

August 29, 2012

"TO TURN HIV INFECTION RATES", PUBLISHED IN DAGBLADET (NORWEGIAN NEWSPAPER), 29.8.12




Leif-Ove Hansen
Member of the Social Party's gay nettwork
Boardmember of HivNorge
Louis Gay
Boardmember of LLHOA
&
Pasientrådet
 

TO TURN HIV INFECTION RATES.

Learning to live with HIV, whether you have been diagnosed or just have exposed yourself, is a question of mental and physical health. It is also within the boundaries of the health care system that it should be solved.


Written by: Louis Gay & Leif-Ove Hansen as privat persons.
Translated by: Louis Gay

På norsk her: http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/p/innlegget-snu-hiv-smittetallene.html

The debate during this summer about the existence of § 155 ("the HIV penal code"), in the media, is a mistake. This law was replaced by politicians already in 2009 and transferred to two new paragraphs. It has been allowed to work up to now, because the politicians wanted a closer examination through the "Syse-Committee". Discussions for or against § 155 is therefore a waste! It will be removed and replaced, anyway, in the near future.

The discussion is about whether prosecuting those living with HIV protects the society or hinder the reduction of HIV infections? Correct answer is the last one.

We want to see a reduction of infections in the future. This we attempt to do through educating and informing about the latest knowledge that are available on these issues, at any time.

Efforts to move those living with HIV and their sex life out of the criminal laws and over to the treatment of the health care system, is not something we invented ourselves. The feedback provided by the specialist health researchers and experts in Norway and internationally, provides legitimacy for the changes we are fighting for in Norway. The research from such as Law Professor Matthew Weaith from the University of London, researching the criminalization of HIV in Scandinavia and research from SERO project in the United States, provides a clear picture of how criminalization underpin stigma and together are an obstacle to a better test regime with subsequent treatment.

Anthony Fauci, head of the American infection control department (NIAD), explained himself clearly under AIDS2012 in Washington this summer. We have the tools to reverse disease development. Several countries have already succeeded, through a conscious political will to adopt testing and medication as a method. We will succeed in turning infection rates correctly in the future. It is first and foremost a political question about willingness to innovate. "The train" is set in motion. The question is whether Norway will stand on the platform or be with it.

Olafiaklinikken's (Norwegian test clinic) news about a test with answers within a minute, is a step in the right direction. Better low threshold for HIV testing and greater accessibility, combined with the reduction of the barriers which prevent people from HIV testing, is key to reducing infection rates. This is almost a world of professionals agreeing upon . Criminalization and stigma stands in the way for a new future with "test and treat" as prevention.

Attitudes and statements based on "gut feelings" and intuition that sometimes characterizes the discussion, reduce an important and evidence-based debate to a "kitchen table talk". Norway is not benefiting from this. And we'd like to see a greater participation from our HIV-specialized health care workers in this debate in the future.

August 10, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH GAYSIR ABOUT AIDS2012

Edwin J. Bernard and Louis Gay at a panel debate about HIV
and criminalization during AIDS2012 in Washington.
- Safest to have sex with an HIV positive on treatment 

http://www.gaysir.no/artikkel.cfm?CID=15378
Jim Høyen
Published 08/10/12
(transelated by Louis Gay)

Louis Gay has been on AIDS2012 in Washington. He came home with new knowledge in the suitcase, and shares it happily with the Gaysir readers.

- Over half of those who test the first time have so low CD4 counts that they probably have been HIV positive for many years. These have since a long time perceived as HIV negative. The probability that they have infected many on their path is big, starts Louis.

He says that this example was a topic at the conference in Washington, which he attended in July. This was used as arguments in the debate of decriminalization and the importance of higher test rate among people.

A healthy person has a number of CD4 cells between 400 and 1600 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. Is the number of CD4 cells between 200 and 500 it may indicate that the immune system is weakened. Late-stage HIV infection usually don’t begin before CD4 count falls below 200.

- From the conference "HIV in Europe", in Copenhagen earlier this year, it was conveyed that HIV infection in more than 50% of the cases is transferred from one that does not even know he is HIV positive. Therefore, you can ask the other part as much as you want, you will not get an answer that is 100% trustworthy. Not because the other part is lying, but because he is of the opinion that he is "well," says Louis Gay.

Leaving their own protection in the hands of others

Louis is a bit upset about the ongoing discussion between HIV positive and HIV negative about who has the responsibility.

- Many HIV negative reserve themselves the right to unprotected sex. They expect and demand that people with HIV should inform about their status. When no one says anything, or they receive information that the other party is "healthy", then they are "safe." But then they ignore a large and dangerous picture. They leave their own protection in the hands of others. They trust and believe that others take care of their health. I think very many people think that way, and it is "dangerous".

Louis stresses how important it is that anyone who picks up someone in London pub, visiting the sauna or "hook up" on Gaysir, reflects on this.

- Everyone wants to fuck, but no one wants to have HIV; between the two thoughts are a number of personal choices. Therefore it is important to get people to understand that they must take care of their own health. It's very scary to leave the whole responsibility to those who know they are HIV positive.

Louis thinks it is safest to sleep with an open HIV on successful treatment. He says recent research presented at AIDS2012 support him in this.

- The person is then probably on medication. But equally important is that you more easily communicate the challenges and take precautions to ensure that infection is not transmitted. We mostly want to take care of each other.

- It's probably far more risky to go with a handsome and likeable guy home from the city, which says he is "well" and then be tempted to make unwise choices.

- Most people see themselves as HIV negative until a test confirms otherwise. A lot may have happened in the meantime. Especially if you do not get a primary infection - which is an indication that something is not as it should be.

"Hard core" group

- There is too much focus on the "hard core" group. Those who use a lot of drugs and deliberately are practicing unprotected sex. Louis says that the "hard core" group was also discussed at the conference in Washington.

- They are found in almost all countries. But they only represent a very small group among those who are HIV positive. This group is almost impossible to get to. The conclusion among researchers is: - find them and get them on medication. This group does not explain the high infection rates in Norway.

- Everyone should take a collective responsibility and make sure to test themselves. Get those who are struggling to cope with their diagnosis on medication. The Public Health Institute says that nearly 10% of Oslo's gays are HIV positive. They talk about an epidemic.

Medication more important than condoms

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented the latest research on "HIV transmission risk" during the conference in Washington.

"Different factors can increase or decrease transmission risk. For example, taking anti-retroviral therapy (ie, medicines for HIV infection) can Reduce the risk of an HIV-infected person transmitting the infection two another by as much as 96%. Consistent use of condoms reduces the risk of getting or transmitting HIV by about 80%. "

- It is interesting that they say that unprotected sex with an HIV positive on successful treatment is safer than sex with a condom with an HIV positive not on treatment.

- New research has led to that we want to get more newly diagnosed on medication immediately. In Norway, there has been an attitude that medication should not begin until the CD4 count has dropped to a certain level. But now medication has so few side effects that it is best to start immediately, said Louis.

Eradication of HIV - a question of money and politics

- It is claimed by many, including Frank O. Pettersen physician in infectious medical department at the Oslo University Hospital, we have the tools needed to eradicate HIV and AIDS.

“By thinking on the treatment also as a preventive measure, increases the ability to limit, perhaps even stop the epidemic”, Pettersen wrote on HivNorges website in January.

- It's really just a question of money and politics. If HIV is detected earlier by, for example easier accessible testing regime and treated with medication immediately, the infection rates eventually will go down naturally. But it requires international efforts.

- Condom use is nevertheless the most important thing to communicate. One thing is for HIV infection, but there are also other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that affects health. Virus resistance is also spoken about. Therefore it is important to see sexual health as a whole, and not just focus on HIV.

“International research shows that a newly diagnosed woman of 25 years, starting with the medication immediately, will have a remaining life expectancy of 52.7 years. An HIV negative 25-year-old woman has about 53.1 years left.” It shows how well the medicine has become.

Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. preventive Institute (NIAD), is a capacity for research on HIV and AIDS. Listen to what he has to say:

July 31, 2012

HIV TRANSMISSION RISK BY CDC

American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has published a list of HIV transmission risks.

NOTE THAT MEDICATION LOWERS THE RISK OF TRANSMISSION MORE THAN USE OF CONDOMS!






http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/law/transmission.htm

"The risk of getting HIV varies widely, depending on the type of exposure. Transmission happens most often during sexual or drug-using activity, and the chance of getting HIV varies for each act. The table lists the risk of transmission for various exposures.

Different factors can increase or decrease transmission risk. For example, taking antiretroviral therapy (i.e., medicines for HIV infection) can reduce the risk of an HIV-infected person transmitting the infection to another by as much as 96%1. Consistent use of condoms reduces the risk of getting or transmitting HIV by about 80%2. Conversely, having a sexually transmitted infection or a high level of HIV virus in the blood (which happens in early and late-stage infection) may increase transmission risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reviewing the most recent science and constructing mathematical models to update transmission risk."

July 29, 2012

THE NEW NORWEGIAN "PATIENT NETWORK"

Louis Gay and Kim Fangen
- The first hiv organization for and by HIV positive people since 1999. http://pasientraadet.no/
Since The Organization Pluss was abolished in 1999, we lost the only broad, national organization by and for people living with HIV in Norway.
- This huge loss in the Norwegian HIV-work field all these years, we have now sealed, says Kim Fangen and Louis Gay, chairman and deputy chairman of the Patient Network board of directors.




By Tom Ovlien.
(translated by Louis Gay)


På norsk her:
http://louisgay72.blogspot.no/p/pasientradet-lansert-under-aids2012.html

The Patient Network for HIV was formalized this summer and is now officially registered with a board of directors and provisional constitution as an organization by and for people with HIV.
Kim Fangen is chairman and Louis Gay is deputy chairman until the first annual general meeting is held and a new board elected.
- With this, we have finally managed to close a huge gap that occurred after the Norwegian HIV organization Pluss was closed in 1999, Kim Fangen says.
- With it disappeared the most important voices of HIV positive with different backgrounds like: women, heterosexuals, immigrants and men who have sex with men - had to the government and society in Norway.

So good to meet Your own peers.
Kim says that one of the first things that struck him when he was diagnosed nearly ten years ago was how alone he was as HIV positive.
- However after a year and a half after I came out as HIV positive I meet a HIV positive from Australia who said that they had their own organization there.
Soon after I went visiting Australia. It was amazing. It felt liberating. It was so good to meet Your own peers.
That's why we want to create this new organization, which we now call the Patient Network.

There Is almost none HIV positive in the other organizations nor on the boards of directors in these organizations.
- So this is primarily an organization for the social needs of HIV positive to have a meeting place?
- No, says Kim and Louis. - This is both HIV politics and a place to meet other people with HIV, points both of them out.
- I've only been involved in the HIV work for barely seven months and only been HIV positive since 2010, says Louis.
- One of the things I discovered when I meet the field of HIV organizations during this time is that there was almost no HIV positive people in these organizations.
I meet many well-meaning, wise and ambitious HIV negative who would like to do positive things, but unfortunately it is often slightly deficient, based on lack of knowledge and at worst directly hollow.
For example, talk about stigma, HIV negative simply don´t understand what this is and what it means for us living with HIV.
You must feel it in your body, to understand this.
I felt I have spent much time and effort trying to raise awareness among HIV negative, so they don't cause us more stigma, when they think they are helping us, he says.

Cooperation
Kim tells that the most important for the Patient Network right now is to start to reach as many as possible.
We need to initiate communication. We need to develop cooperation with hospitals, infection medical personnel, medical students, now working in the field.
All HIV positive groups must be included: immigrants, women, transsexuals and men who have sex with men.
Already there have been initiated sessions and mastering courses in some departments, a work that must be monitored at all hospitals and clinics dealing with this challenges.

Norway must become more results-oriented within the hiv field nationally.
- What do you think must be added to the new policy in the HIV field?
- Internationally, there is plenty of resources, important networks that we have in the Patient Network, is a little ignored in Norway.
We are not so good at listening to others' experiences or invite them here to learn, despite the fact that in Norway doesn't have a lot to brag about in HIV field in the past ten years or more.
We are not exactly the smartest boy in class either on prevention, non-discrimination or organization.
We must become more result-oriented at home, see what we actually can achieve in order to prevent both infection and stigmatization.
Louis Gay says he looks at the creation of a secure framework for engagement as the key to creating change.
- We must have safe venues for HIV so that we can participate in public debate ourself as positive people to better the current situation.

General Risk or harmless?
- There are too many units and too many double messages.
It must be improved so that politicians don´t speak with one voice, our doctors with another, and judges and lawyers with a third.
Science and medicine say that we as well treated patients due to medication are harmless in the context of infection, the lawyers on the other hand that we are a public danger to society.
Kim adds that people living with HIV today are an untapped resource in the prevention and other purposes.
- Government, communities and society need our voices, completely unfiltered, says the two.

AIDS2012 IN WASHINGTON IS OVER

Nick Rhodes, congresswomen Barbara Lee and me
I need to express my gratitude to those who made it possible for me to attend the AIDS2012 in Washington.

It's difficult to realize how much came out of it, this close to the conference? But what I do know is that a group of 2 Norwegian colleagues and me, managed to launch a new organisation for people living with HIV, by people living with HIV.

http://pasientraadet.no/




Hopefully this will be an important contribution to the work against stigma, lack of knowledge and public discrimination as criminalization.

I also hope that my presence at the conference, the interviews I did for the Americans and the panel debate I attended against criminalization, all together made a difference?

Thank you Sean Strub and the http://seroproject.com/ for inviting me. Without you it would never have happened!

Thank you Edwin J. Bernard at http://www.hivjustice.net/ for putting me up at the panel, letting me share my story and experiences. You have no idea how much it means to me and my fight in Norway.

Thank you Alex Garner (Editor at Large, Positive Frontiers) at Frontiers Media LLC http://www.frontiersla.com/ for providing me the access to the conference as a media representative. Without you I would never have seen the inside of that convention center.

And most of all!

Thank you Christopher Cannon (Manager, Health Care Access) at National Alliance of State & territorial AIDS Directors http://www.nastad.org/

You took me in to your home in Washington for free, so I could attend this conference. I will not forget!

June 22, 2012

Important survey about people with or affected by HIV concerning their attitudes about criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, potential exposure or transmission.

Take your time to answer it! It makes you think about who you are regarding these questions.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HIVandtheCriminalLaw

June 18, 2012

Today I posted this new entry at american POZ.

http://blogs.poz.com/louisgay/

"A clarification before arriving at AIDS 2012 in Washington DC

I am invited to AIDS 2012 in Washington DC this summer by the american organisation SERO http://www.seroproject.com and the international HIV Justice Network http://vimeo.com/hivjustice. I will participate in debates and workshops surrounding HIV and media and HIV criminalisation. Before I arrive I need to clarify a few things.

While a lot of the HIV-criminalisation discussions in US is about disclosure, this is not the case in Norway.

The law here does not require HIV-positive people to disclose. Even though the court has stated that people with HIV should disclose their status prior to sex, it doesn't give you any protection against prosecution and the question of guilt in a trial. The question of guilt is only connected to whether you have (knowing or neglecting the probability of being HIV positive) put someone at risk of infection or actually infected them.

All in all there is a lot of misunderstandings and confusion around this in Norway. Even the organisations and politicians are sometimes making the wrong assumptions about this. The consequences are bad for every one. A lot of HIV-negative people believe that those with HIV are legally obligated to disclose and therefore feel protected, while people with HIV are told that they are not obligated to disclose their status, making the others upset and sometimes angry if they find out.

In my case my indictment is not about nondisclosure. This has nothing to do with the question of whether I'm guilty or not. It will on the other hand be an issue if I am convicted in relation to how they will sentence me.

The law in Norway puts all responsibility on the one with HIV. My case is a very good example of the Norwegian and Nordic way of thinking. The law is to protect the society from communicable diseases, like HIV. Even if we want to (and I tried once with my former HIV negative partner) a person can not legally free anyone with HIV from the threats of prosecution by the state, even if they wanted to by signing papers/contracts etc. So disclosing gives us no protection from the law.

The prosecutor in my case find it irrelevant to this indictment that the complainant had HIV prior to the sex we had. The law opens to prosecute any HIV-positive conducting in sex which they find to be a risk of infection. Whether that is another HIV-positive or it was consensual sex with disclosure has nothing to do with the law. Because the law is there to protect the society not the individual.

The complainant in my case is not my enemy. He wanted to withdraw his charge already in October last year (in writing and given to the police). In my country you can not withdraw your charges in HIV cases if you once pushed that button. Because as a complainant you are just a witness to the state of Norway (represented by the prosecutor) which is my opponent in the upcoming trial.

This is part of why Norway and some of the Nordic countries are ranked among the worst in the world (by UNAIDS) when it comes to criminalize HIV-positive people?

Watch the newly published interview Sean Strub and SERO did with me during the UNAIDS conference in Oslo, February 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1C4zpdHiY"

June 14, 2012

Yesterday the american organization http://www.seroproject.com/ published the interview they did with me during the UNAIDS conference in Oslo, February 2012.

It can be watched here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1C4zpdHiY

I will be going to the AIDS 2012 conference in Washington DC. There I have been invited to participate in several events including panel debates and workshops. One will be about HIV and media on July 23. Another about HIV criminalisation on July 25.

April 26, 2012

Today the leader of the Standing Committee on Health and Care Services, Bent Høie (The Conservative Party), raised the issue of HIV in Parliament.

A lot of good arguments and for the first time I got my own criminal case and person mention from the Speakers Chair in the Norwegian Parliament:

på norsk her:
http://louisgay72.blogspot.com/p/omtalt-i-stortinget-26412.html

"...Then it is a paradox that the social-liberal Norway still has an HIV-paragraph that is criminalizing HIV-positive people's sexuality. This has now been brought to a head by the public prosecutor who has brought charges against HIV-positive Louis Gay, who has not infected any other person and who conducted what we call "safer sex", which in reality is the health authorities' recommendations. I am aware that Syse-committee is now working on this issue, but it is still necessary to highlight this in this debate, because current criminal law works against prevention strategy and stigmatize HIV-positive people. I hope that today's debate could be the start of that we again have a strong political commitment to reducing new infections of HIV and to improve the lives of those who are HIV-positive - which in reality are two sides of the same coin." (translated by Louis Gay)

March 29, 2012

My second entry at Poz.com, the digital version of Poz magazin. You can read my entry here:


på norsk her:


or here:

Finally prosecuted by the State Attorney.

9th of March 2012, the prosecuting authorities' in Norway announced that they will prosecute me. (The indictment and comments from me and my attorney can be read at: http://louisgay72.blogspot.com/2012/03/indictment-decision-by-state-attorney.html). 

I chose to go public before any final decision was made from the State attorney office, with the chance of provoking them to prosecute me because they don’t want to risk being criticized by media of giving in to pressure. (edited 30.3.12 and my subjective opinion).

This is fine with me. Like I’ve stated before I want to have my case tried before a court.

Anyway! Now we all have to wait until the trial before we get any further answers about my case. In the meantime the discussion whether we should have a law like this (and using it like in my case) is protecting the society from more infections or just making it worse, continues.

Personally I had the pleasure of being enlightened by a certain professor from The University of London over dinner the other day. He asked me if I had ever thought of the following dilemmas:

Do the defenders of the law like it is today also believe that we should prosecute and convict parents that voluntarily decide not to vaccinate their children against; let’s say Polio (this is voluntarily in Norway)? Those parents are in fact taking away their children’s option to protect them selves against an infection with life term consequences. Just like the arguments used to defend why people with HIV should be prosecuted and convicted because they either fails to disclose their status (which they argue involuntarily put people at risk of an infection) or actually put others at risk of HIV, which also are an infection with life term consequences provided you have access to medical treatment?

Do the same defenders believe that all countries should have the same laws to protect themselves against HIV and by that (if they believe all people are equal in God’s eyes?) wilfully risk putting millions of Africans in jail? This would eventually be the outcome in Africa, where big parts of the population are infected with HIV.

Do they believe everyone should equally answer to the same law? In Norway it’s become publicly known that medicated HIV-positive parents under guidance of their doctors can conceive children the “natural” way (which I’m very much in favour of). This is of course a violation of the penal code 155, but none of these has ever been prosecuted.

If the answer to the last question is yes, it’ll probably mean that I have to press charges against the complainant in my own case. Because of the conclusions in the police investigation the complainant has probably put me at risk of re-infection (which is criminal by the law) and probably given a false statement to the police. What a great system!

God bless the freedom of speech and have a nice week.

Louis Gay

Indictment decision by the State Attorney in Oslo.
(My translation)

På norsk her:
http://louisgay72.blogspot.com/p/omsider-tiltalt-av-statsadvokaten-i.html

Now I'm finally prosecuted

"... for violation of:

Penal Code § 155 first penalty option
for intentional to have exposed another to a risk of being infected even though he had reasonable grounds to believe that he was infected with a serious communicable disease

Basis
On one occasion during the period xx.xx.xxx to xx.xx.xxxx he made receptive (receiving) oral sex with xxxxxxxxx without protection, even though he knew he was HIV-positive.

Claim for compensation to the complainant reserved abandoned."


The indictment is largely consistent with the conclusion of the police investigation. So I'm accused of having exposed another of infection, without actually infecting him, because it appeared that he was infected by someone else.

Yet there is a surprising element. The prosecutors find that one case of oral sex (without any contact with semen according to the victim's and my own police report), which is regarded by the definition of "safer sex" after a series of health authorities written instructions, shall be considered as intentional. So, that I willfully through this action has exposed the victim of infection. So, even though I’ve both followed the prevailing advice of safer sex and that the risk of infection in this case occurred at the risk of infection from blood, after an accident that would have caused exactly the same risk if it had been used a condom.

It’s difficult to understand the prosecutors in any other way than that for HIV-positive people it’s a criminal offense to practice "safer sex". I.e. to use a condom during anal and vaginal intercourse and oral sex without a condom if there is no contact with semen or precum, if you want to avoid criminal liability.

Louis Gay

March 17, 2012

Louis Gay is the first one in Norway to be open as HIV-positive 
and charged with violation of paragraph 155 
(the “HIV paragraph” in Norway).
Photo: Tina Åmodt
Gay is participating in a number of forums to give HIV a face. 
Here he is with Ole Magnus Kinapel on the opening of 
the exhibition “Shameless”, where Kinapel 
interviewed HIV-positive in a video project.
Photo: Tina Åmodt
An interview I did with www.gaysir.no (Norwegian web-place for gay people) March 15, 2012.



or read it here in English:









HIV activist Louis Gay wants to fight the penal code section 155. He refuses to be criminalized and stigmatized.
By Tina Åmodt (translated by Louis Gay)
No, the French name is not a pseudonym. Louis Gay is open as HIV-postive, and the only one in Norway that has been open about a criminal charge related to the diagnosis.

Since last November, he has fought bitterly against what he describes as a stigmatizing and unreasonable legislation, through feature articles, speeches, interviews and his English-language blog (louisgay72.blogspot.com).

- The HIV legislation in Norway is among the strictest in the world, and the UNAIDS have criticized it for years. It is unreasonable that our own government maintains one of the main reasons to uphold the stigma through practicing a strict legal framework. HIV-positive people are forced into hiding, and many dare not to test for the virus, according to Gay:

- To get people to take greater responsibility, we must create a society where it is safe to be HIV positive.


Were threatened and charged

While the Syse-committee evaluates the legislation, the penal code section 155 still stands. It states clearly that it is illegal for persons with HIV to expose others to contagion or infection. But where is the limit? Gay believes the regulations are unclear and that the gap between legal text and educational interpretation of the law is large and confusing.

- It is not required by law in Norway to tell that one is HIV-positive. But if you look at some of the cases that have gone to court, you will find in the sentencing that non-disclosure has had a negative impact. People have also been condemned for not having used a condom during oral sex, but this does not match the text of the law, he said.

- Even if you have proved that you have not infected anyone, you can still be put in jail. In reality this means that HIV-positive people are not legally entitled to a sexual life.

Gay has firsthand experience with this section. In Aftenposten (newspaper in Norway) he told about how he was threatened with being reported to the police last year, by two ex-partners. According to him: unjust and only motivated by revenge.

- One of the two threats resulted in a criminal charge. It has been investigated the usual way and was finished in January. The conclusion was that I did not infect the complainant. Now I wait on the public prosecutor's conclusion, whether it is going to court or not I do not know yet, says Gay.

- To get people to take greater responsibility, to test more often, we must create a society where it is safe to be HIV-positive, says Gay.


Being a public face

Louis Gay got his HIV diagnosis in 2010 after a routine check.

- It led to a brief period of mourning, but to get the message at the age of 38 was not too bad. Life goes on, I thought. Now that I have medication that works, it is not something that affects my daily life in a very great extent. It does not mean I believe that living with HIV is not without problems, he said.

He has been open to the surroundings, and believes that everyone has handled it pretty well. Most sexual partners have also taken the information surprisingly well, and without reacting with fear, he says.

- I try to put a face to HIV and make it easier to be positive, helping to reduce stigma and prejudice. Many people find it awfully hard to tell their sexual partners about the diagnosis. My impression is that people with HIV are not irresponsible people.

Do you have the impression that many infected people are feeling alone?

- After I was TV-broadcasted on the evening news in February the phone went crazy. People called from all over the country. HIV-positive people who are desperate. Who feel lonely and do not know how to deal with their family and the society around them. It makes me very sad, said Gay.


Everyone must take responsibility

He believes that it is now up to politicians to improve the situation of people with HIV.

- The politicians must take responsibility to clean up and change the law. First of all, they need to stop prosecuting people for not actually infecting someone. Even better is if they make a law where the HIV-negative have to realize that they have a responsibility when they go to bed with someone. The way it is today, they have no responsibilities. As an HIV-positive you have to carry 100% of the responsibility.

Also, educational work and campaigns is important to deal with the persistent, high infection rates, according to Gay.

- It's like smoking. Everyone has knowledge of how dangerous smoking is; however, the community spends millions on anti-smoking campaigns. The government complains about increased infection numbers, however, it is breathtaking little money on campaigns. It is inconceivable to me.

Do you feel alone in this fight?

- No. I am not alone. There is a very small HIV-positive group who have worked with this topic much longer than me. But we are few, far too few. I understand why people with HIV choose to hide, on the other side: it is important for all minority groups that the players themselves are in the group, stands up and take responsibility.


Going to USA

Louis Gay is keen to stress that he understands that people are reluctant to inform the environment that they are chronically ill.

- But I have not actually seen a single negative comment since I stood up, not one. I have only received positive feedback from many who say they are happy for what I do. This motivates me to continue.

In July, he is invited to Washington DC to contribute at the international AIDS conference.

- Soon I apply for a visa, but it depends if I get the entry to the United States because I have a charge hanging over me. Well, I just have to try, he says with a smile.

March 7, 2012

First time published today as a new blogger at Poz.com. The digital version of Poz magazin. You can read my entry here:

http://blogs.poz.com/louisgay/

på norsk her:

http://louisgay72.blogspot.com/p/hvorfor-jeg-er-offentlig-som.html

or here:

Why I’m public as a criminalized HIV-positive?

My own country, Norway, has been ranked by UNAIDS to be among the five worst UN countries to prosecute and put HIV-positive people behind bars.

When I first became diagnosed with HIV in 2010, it wasn’t the end of the world to me. I was 38 years old back then and for 20 of them I had to relate to HIV in one way or another? I was only 19 the first time I heard that a previous partner of mine had developed AIDS. I puked of anxiety that day.

Later there has been a lot of stories like that. I’ve been lucky I guess? But of course it has forced me to relate to the obvious truth; this might very well happen to me some day. And so it did. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not happy I got HIV, I’m just happy that when I did it was in 2010 because of all the knowledge we have today.

What I didn’t know was how people with HIV could be prosecuted and convicted despite all that knowledge and new medication. Despite that adults agree to a sexual relationship with an HIV-positive. Despite that there’s no transmission of the virus.

In my case I was terrified the first time I experienced someone actually threatening me with the police if I didn’t do as I was told. The second time something like that happened I put up a fight and was reported to the police of breaking the penal code 155 which goes like this:

“He who with reasonable grounds to believe he is infected with a serious communicable disease, willfully or negligently infects or expose another to a risk of being infected, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 6 years in cases of willful violation and imprisonment for up to 3 years at negligent violation.” (My translation)

I had no idea what I had coming. Friends turning their backs at me and my family were divided. And most important of all! I had a complete psychological breakdown that required help from professionals to conquer. (I haven’t really ever recovered completely).

But after months of therapy and support from a small group of loyal friends, I was finally ready to make the biggest choice of my life. To fight back at what I could only see as a complete unreasonable system, made to protect the society from more infections, based on a great misunderstanding: That prosecuting people with HIV actually will keep the numbers of new infections down? Or to live the rest of my life knowing that anybody at anytime can take away my dignity and human right to a sexual life. Get real!

I’m not really against the society’s right to prosecute and convict those very few individuals who willfully transmits HIV to a lot of others without getting any kind of consent. But it has to be proven without any reasonable doubt. Not like in many cases today where you are literally screwed in the justice system just because you have HIV.

I decided to go public with my story November 2011. A few months later I’ve been published in the biggest newspaper in Norway, been on the Norwegian Broadcasting corp. (both TV and radio) twice, given interviews to magazines, started my private blog (louisgay72.blogspot.com) and held public speeches several times, about this topic. So what’s happened so far? Not much. Thought I would get a lot of shit thrown at me, but that hasn’t happened? On the contrary, most people support me and say nice things to me? All which make me slowly believe that maybe (just maybe?) the general population are willing to listen to common sense after all?

If the politicians start to believe that they won’t loose their voters even if they try to decriminalizing HIV. Things might go our way after all? I’m sure it’s going to be a while yet before we get there, but I’m slightly optimistic, at least in Norway.

So these days, while I’m waiting for the State attorney office to decide whether they will prosecute me or not, I’m aiming even more for the general public and the politicians nationally and internationally. It’s too late to have any regrets for me. It’s either my way or the HIGHWAY.

Regards

Louis Gay
HIV-positive
Norway

March 1, 2012

This chronicle I wrote was published February 28, 2012 by Aftenposten (one of the biggest newspapers in Norway).



HIV-positive, investigated and stated.
By Louis Gay (/loi:/ /gi:/)

Not everyone have the courage to tell they are HIV-positive at first, unfortunately (but with good reasons). What I’ve experienced implies that I wouldn’t have chosen to be open about it, again. After I was diagnosed with HIV, I experienced to be reported to the police by a former partner and threatened with the same thing by another. It has been a shock to go from an otherwise law-abiding life, to get a status as a suspect in a police investigation. Both times, the goal has been to hold me back in relationships I no longer wanted to be part of.

The Norwegian penal Code §155 *, is very controversial. Something the appointed "Syse-committee", who will study the issue of criminalization of the transmission of serious communicable diseases, tells us.

I’ve tried to inform my partners of me being contagious. Often I’m getting the same answers: "I’m an adult and can take responsibility for myself". "You don’t need to worry; I know what I’m doing". "It's not your responsibility anymore, as you’ve disclosed your status". Answer, which all of them should be enough to make me feel secure. So why am I not happy? The reason is that even though most people actually believe what they say, then and there, it’s sufficient that only one of them repents and press charges against me and my life becomes a hell of fear and shame, again. A vindictive or remorseful partner with the law on their side, through accusations can put my life "out of play".

So, what does that fear and shame consists of? Words can be withdrawn and changed. I have to prove to the society that I’ve acted correctly and not done anything wrong as an HIV-positive. My fear consists in not being able to convince others of this. How to prove something that was said and done between two adults, with no witnesses present? People I thought had confidence in me, who went skeptical and turned their back on me or pulled away, are examples of behaviors that support the feeling of shame. Worst of all is the feeling that there are no guarantees that it will not happen again. I believed that individual freedom and responsibility were virtues we cherished? My experience is that unfortunately it doesn’t apply equally to those of us with HIV.

We are subjects to a law which is of so-called general preventive nature, a law that are there to protect you healthy people from us sick. Regardless of what a healthy person wants to do sexually with an HIV-positive, we must still carry the full responsibility if something should go wrong. A potential risk of infection is in principle sufficient to prosecute us, even if the healthy one has gone into it with eyes open. Police have compared my HIV-virus to the one from the complainant. They are different. In other words I didn’t infect the complainant. Nevertheless, I can still be prosecuted and convicted.

After the charges against me, I’ve tried to live with an HIV-negative partner. Together we went to get supervision by a doctor and specialist, to be on the "safe side". We followed the advice's we got on protection and responsibility, like the healthcare-sector describes "safer sex" and sexuality on the terms from the HIV-negative partner. Still, I became a weekly criminal according to the strict interpretation of the law by the criminal justice system, where not even "safer sex" (as the term is usually defined in information material) exempt from criminal liability. I’m therefore at the mercy of my partners, in the past and the future, that they never change their personal views on shared responsibility for our sexual practices together. If it happens, it could mean more accusations and threats against me. This means that I’m no longer able to live with the confidence I should have to my partners. Instead, I'm always worried and suspicious towards people who really just want me well.

Most HIV-positive people, whatever sexual orientation, often want the same as people in general: Being able to live without fear, prejudice and ignorance, being able to choose partners and spouses without feeling like second-class citizens when it comes to public law and ignorant prejudice. You healthy people have to learn enough about HIV, so you understand that most of us don’t want to or ever can infect you. I belong to an increasing group that is successfully on medical treatment. People with HIV would pose a negligible risk of infection if the rest of you would help taking more responsibility for your own and others' sexual safety.

It is those HIV-positive who don’t know their own status yet, which accounts for most cases of infection. A lot of people are afraid to find out if they are infected or they think it’s unnecessary to be tested. Please join us to make it safer to live with HIV, so that more people dare to test more often and chooses to be open. In this way we can together push the numbers of newly infected, downwards. No one in their right mind can argue that it wouldn’t be to everyone's advantage? And to the families, friends, colleagues and partners: If we accept that society and individuals continue to put all the responsibility upon people with HIV, then we also say yes to a larger number of infected people who will choose to live in uncertainty and hide their own status, in the future. Like everything else that is unknown and frightening, it is only through knowledge we can break down prejudice and to take back the control. Politicians must do their part through a better legal system, but the rest of you must also contribute.

So far I belong to a small circle of people with HIV who choose to stick their neck out in the public, and I do so with fear of what may come. I don’t think it's going to be easy. But like other minority groups which also have women and men speaking up for them, I hope that it's not pointless to fight?

I consider myself to be a privileged man, because I can feel love for others, both emotionally and physically. This ability, I don’t want to lose. Therefore, I believe that maybe in the future I can say: "Just to let you know: I'm HIV-positive", without feeling insecure or afraid of the reaction from individuals and the society. The world is going to be full of prejudice and ignorance for a long time to come, perhaps forever? I will continue with others to fight, to my last breath.

* "He who with reasonable grounds to believe he is infected with a serious communicable disease, wilfully or negligently infects or expose another to a risk of being infected, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 6 years in cases of wilful violation and imprisonment for up to 3 years at negligent violation. " (My translation).

February 29, 2012

This is my speech at the Civil Society Caucus in Oslo on February 13, 2012. An international pre-conference to the UNAIDS meeting February 14 and 15, 2012:

http://vimeo.com/hivjustice/louisgay

February 27, 2012



Kommentar til NRK nyheter sitt sitatvalg av meg i morgennyhetene 27.2.2012.

I forbindelse med et intervju NRK gjorde med meg 23.2.2012 har kanalen valg å bruke en del av intervjuet hvor jeg forteller at to HIV-positive på vellykket medisinsk behandling, det vil si at de har udetekterbar virusmengde i blodet, kan ha ubeskyttet sex med hverandre.

Denne uttalelsen gjorde jeg i sammenheng med ”The Swiss statement”

http://www.aidsmap.com/The-Swiss-statement/page/1322904/

en sveitsisk undersøkelse fra 2008 gjort på heterofile par, hvor forskerne konkluderte med at det ville være trygt for par under disse forutsetningene å praktisere ubeskyttet sex, forutsatt at de ikke har andre seksuelt overførbare sykdommer.

Denne delen av intervjuet valgte NRK og ikke ta med.


Comment on Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. choice of how to quote me in the morning news 2/27/2012.

In an interview Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. did with me 2/23/2012 they chose to use a portion of the interview where I said that two HIV-positive on successful medical treatment, which means that they have undetectable viral load in the blood, may have unprotected sex with each other.

This statement I made in the context with the "The Swiss statement"



http://www.aidsmap.com/The-Swiss-statement/page/1322904/  


a Swiss study from 2008 done on heterosexual couples, where the researchers concluded that it would be safe for the couple under these conditions to practice unprotected sex, provided they do not have other sexually transmitted diseases.

This part of the interview Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. did not quote.

February 26, 2012

This is a translated and edited article I wrote, first published at the biggest website for gay people i Scandinavia: http://www.gaysir.no/artikkel.cfm?CID=14998

HIV criminalisation, “safer sex” and disclosure?

After following various posts and discussions about HIV criminalisation in Norway, I would like to contribute to both clarifying and problematizing this subject. It is in fact more complicated than what often appears.

Most HIV-positive and negative will probably agree that as a society we need to protect us from such an in general dangerous disease as HIV (although the disease is less somatic dangerous today because of successful medication). Psychosocially there are unfortunately many who feel that there has not become much easier to live with it.

Such protection rests primarily on: 1. Individual's ability to protect themselves, 2. The morality / ethics among the HIV-positive population (that they take responsibility to not spread the disease further by informing about their status and / or protect their sexual partners) and 3. Laws approved by the politicians and the judicial interpretation and application in criminal cases.

All three forms of protection are important and necessary. Often is the discussion about the emphasis between them. I will concentrate on the last.

Since morality / ethics are subjective sizes with few sanctions, it is inconceivable to me that the society should not have any laws for use in cases in which HIV-positive deliberately infect others. The laws will also be normative for what we as a society feel about right morals / ethics. In that way, they play an important educational role. This is also where it starts to get complicated.

Current penal code §155 (HIV-paragraph) reads:

"He who with reasonable grounds to believe he is infected with a serious communicable disease, willfully or negligently infects or expose another to a risk of being infected, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 6 years in cases of willful violation and imprisonment for up to 3 years at negligent violation. " (My translation). In addition, there are substantial sums in compensation to the complainant.

The law is a general preventive law. In each case where a person files a complaint for breaching it, it will be "... for crimes against society." You do not have to infect someone to be imprisoned in Norway. It is enough to have exposed someone to a potential infection. Of the 20 or so sentences so far, some of them apply to such cases.

If one should have such a strict law regarding HIV-infection is not my concern in this article. The arguments for it and against it ranges from that it could have been further sharpened (was last increased in the 90's) to total liquidation. Regardless of witch "camp" we belong to, there is a great paradox surrounding the law as nurturing and guiding for HIV-positive behavior.

It seems to be quite common that the healthcare-sector informs that HIV-positive do not have to disclose their status to sexual partners (it is actually not written in the law). Personally, I have been informed about this all the time in my meetings with an otherwise wonderful HIV-specialized medical staff.

Back in 2006 the Supreme Court (the only of its kind?) concludes, however that there exists a duty to disclose information even if you practice safer sex (http://hivnorge.no/id/248.0 and hivnorge.no/asset/469/ 1/469_1.pdf). So there is precedent from the Supreme Court that we have a legal duty of disclosure.

Furthermore, some parts of the healthcare-sector informs that if we practice safe sex as well, using condoms, we will avoid any penalties from the authorities. This is not completely wrong, but inaccurate. What is "safer sex" and what is meant by “use of condoms”?

The term "safer sex" indicates that no sex can be considered 100% safe. Often described as the concept of using a condom during anal and vaginal intercourse, but not for oral sex, if there is no contact with sperm or precum from the penis. It is often recommended to use a condom even for oral sex, but it is not normally defined as part of the term "safer sex".

Doctor Frank O. Pettersen at infectious medical ward at Ullevål Hospital responds to "Anna" about "safer sex" this way:

"Transmission from HIV-positive men to a HIV-negative man or woman who performs oral sex is considered a so-called safer sex as long as the one that sucks, do not get semen in the mouth." (Http://hivnorge.no/id/496.0)

Dr. Haakon Aars replies to a letter this way:

"There is a lot of sex you can have that are defined as "safer sex" in relation to infection. Such as mutual masturbation. Also sucking, if you do not ejaculate in your partner's mouth."
(Http://hivnorge.no/id/945.0)

Both doctors will take further proviso that oral sex is not without danger of infection under certain conditions, but none of them talks about using a condom for oral sex as part of the "safer sex" concept. This has also been the usual information I have received from the healthcare-sector. HivNorge (the biggest HIV organization in Norway) confirms in their brochure "HIV and criminal law in the Nordic countries", that the practice of safer sex rules out punishment according to the Penal Code, and that there is no legal obligation to disclose HIV-status to sexual partners.

In contrast to this is the judgment of the Court of Appeals, February 2010, where it is established that an HIV-positive who have oral sex with another without a condom, can be convicted for violation of §155. (Http://hivnorge.no/id/710.0)

Attorney Brynjar Meling said in an interview:

"I cannot see anything but that penal code §155 means a sex-ban for people who are infected with HIV …".

Further he says:

"... We imagine a hypothetical case where an HIV-positive has infected his girlfriend. To avoid being accused himself, he files a complaint about his previous girlfriend for exposing him to HIV-infection. Even though it is likely that he has known about her HIV-status, and used this to force her to remain in a relationship she wants out of, she is accused and convicted. "

When asked if this is a realistic example of how the law can also be used to give false accusations against people with HIV or put pressure on HIV-positive to remain "in place" in a destructive relationship, Meling answer a simple but clear "yes".
(http://hivnorge.no/id/509.0)

So where are we then, as HIV-positive? In the field between well-meaning organizations and health workers and the legal system conservative interpretation of the law? As a newly diagnosed, we are not faced by lawyers explaining the legal consequences of being HIV-positive. As defendants, we are not exempt from criminal liability, even if we acted in good faith. Politicians have so far failed to address the need for clearer definitions (even with the revised criminal penal code §237 and §238 these questions remain unanswered, and handed over to legal interpretation).

The best hope for a clarification is now at the Syse-committee, which until October 2012 will review the laws regarding serious communicable diseases. Is it allowed to hope for clearer guidelines?

Louis Gay
HIV-positive

February 23, 2012

Congratulations to Edwin J Bernard and the hardworking people from Civil society caucus on HIV criminalisation, for the fantastic OSLO DECLARATION ON HIV CRIMINALISATION:

http://www.hivjustice.net/oslo/

http://vimeo.com/37232529

http://blogs.poz.com/sean/archives/2012/02/hiv_justice_network.html

February 19, 2012



This is an interview I gave to HivNorge (the biggest HIV organization in Norway) and was published February 14, 2012. http://www.hivnorge.no/id/1069


To arms against the Penal Code

By Olav André Manum (translated by google translater and Louis Gay)

Louis Gay (pron.: /loi:/ /gi:/) is 39 years old. He has tested positive on a HIV test.
He is also reviewed for violations of Penal Code §155, that is the law that makes it a crime to infect others with HIV or expose them to infection.

The case is fully investigated, but the prosecutor has not yet decided whether charges should be brought.

Gay is reported to the police by a former expartner. He insists that he has informed about the risk of infection, although the expartner later denied this in his statement to the police. The expartner, however, felt that the responsibility to avoid infection had to be divided between the two adults, and that the choice of having consensual sex with infectious Louis was the expartner alone.

- It was during an episode of oral sex without a condom - which of course is defined as safer sex - that we had an accident and I started to bleed. When the expartner later tested positive, we both took it for granted that it was I who was the source of the infection, says Gay. He is Norwegian as any, but have a French last name because his grandfather was French.

It was only when the expartner wanted them to give each other a second chance, but Gay said that no, that the violation of Penal Code §155 was presented.

- I felt great sorrow to have infected another with HIV, said Gay, adding that the complaint, just added to the burden. It has not been easy to live with the thought that he should have infected another, but luckily Gay got fast access to a psychologist. This as well as support from friends has helped him to see things in perspective and to take up the fight against what he see as an unfair and useless law. He insists that this fight is a HIV-political or a legal political struggle, and not be tied to any population group.

A useless provision

- The law is useless because it does not meet the purpose, namely to protect the community against the spread of HIV, he says. He believes that the provision affects individuals without protecting society precisely because it puts the responsibility for preventing the spread of the HIV on the HIV-positive alone. It does not help that a potential partner or lover are informed about HIV status and it does not help if they say they are helping to share the responsibility. The law as it has been practiced in Norway and in relation to Louis Gay puts responsibility on the people living with HIV alone.

This means that it is better not to know about your HIV status, and it causes that it is better to keep quiet about what you know than to inform about it. As long as you do not know, you can not be held liable and many cases of infection occur while people with HIV are unaware of their own status. The fact that the law is practiced so that the responsibility lies only with the HIV-positive alone can easily make each HIV-positive a victim of revenge or anger from expartners or former sexual partners. There are also examples of that the provision have been used to keep the HIV-positive into a relationship he or she wants to break out of.


- Police have compared the my HIV-virus with my expartners virus. They are of different types, meaning that it is not I who have infected my expartner. Nevertheless, I can be prosecuted for having potentially exposed another of infection, says Gay.

Taking up the fight

The negativ impact Gay felt because of the filed complaint and that he felt betrayed by people who had said in advance that they would line up, he has worked through by taking up arms against the provision. He has read about criminal law regarding HIV, studied other issues that have been up in court and agree that since the provision is used the way it is, then he might go to jail.

But Gay is also clear that he wants his case to be prosecuted. He wants to answer for it in court and he wants an acquittal. He wants an acquittal to result in a precedent, meaning that this judgment and its conditions will be decisive for the outcome of similar cases. The dropping of charges will not give Gay what is looking for, namely to help reveal how unjust and inappropriate these provisions in the Penal Code is.
- There are a lot of good therapy in taking up the fight, says Gay.

This Law takes away HIV-positive people their legal rights

Gay stresses that the times he has been questioned by the police he has been properly and correctly treated. Yet he feels without legal rights. This past year he had a new partner. This partner is HIV-negative. -It has been an incredible effort to build up the confidence we need to each other as a couple, he says - not least because I have experience that trust and promises can be broken.
The fact that the two have done it, he believes, is due not least to those among other things, that they agreed to journal at Gays doctor that they are both aware of the situation and the responsibility that comes with. The conclusion made by Gay, however, is that the law as it is, even after the audit and divisions in the Penal Code sections 237 and 238, undermine and subvert his right to a stable relationship, a love life and sex life.

Still unclear

- For what does the revisions in general terms mean by that it shall not apply to a marriage-like relationship, he asks. -When is a relationship akin to marriage, must people have lived together under the same registered address for two years, or is it enough that they live together? The law says nothing about this.

- And what about that condom use should be exempt from punishment? Does that mean you have to use condoms during oral sex? And what about rimming? Do you have to use licking-rubber if it should be considered as safe sex? For me all these questions just are as unclear as before, and they do not make a sexual life as HIV-positive any easier.
Gay stresses that he is not opposed to that to infect others with intent should be a criminal offense. He only says that other parts of the Criminal Code provisions should be used.

Of one thing he is certain: If he had known what experience he would get as an HIV-positive who are open about his status, private, at work and in public, he would never had said anything. Then life would have become easier. Now he's going to stay the course so he can fight against an unjust and inappropriate provision of the Criminal Code.

Penal Code provisions on HIV alone does not protect the community from infection, he says. - We need much clearer laws that also makes partners jointly responsible for their own protection and additional information to the public, so that knowledge increases and prejudices are reduced. The fact that more people are discovering earlier diagnosis and possibly choose openness is the best protection society can acquire.