Tag Archives: African

Racialization, Immigration and the Representation of HIV Criminalization in Canadian Mainstream Newspapers

Research and report by: Eric Mykhalovskiy, York University, Colin Hastings, York University, Chris Sanders, Lakehead University, Michelle Hayman, University of Toronto & Laura Bisaillon, University of Toronto 


For some time now, growing concerns have been voiced by African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) activists, people living with HIV, and AIDS service organizations (ASOs) that ACB people living with HIV are negatively portrayed and overrepresented in Canadian newspaper stories about criminal HIV non-disclosure cases. We investigate those alarming concerns in our report, “Callous, Cold and Deliberately Duplicitous”: Racialization, Immigration and the Representation of HIV Criminalization in Canadian Mainstream Newspapers.

Our report explores mainstream Canadian newspaper coverage of HIV non-disclosure criminal cases in Canada. Our analysis is based on 1680 English-language Canadian newspaper articles about HIV non-disclosure criminal cases in Canada written between 1989-2015. Overall, our findings show that newspapers are indeed a source of profoundly stigmatizing representations of ACB men living with HIV. This should be of great concern because the mainstream media are an important source of public information about HIV as most Canadians do not have close, first-hand knowledge of HIV, people living with HIV or crime.

­Our quantitative findings overwhelmingly support community concerns about overrepresentation. For example, 68% of the articles focus on racialized defendants. Black men, and specifically Black immigrant men, are exceptionally overrepresented in our data. They are featured in newspaper articles three times more often than would be warranted on the basis of the proportion of all defendants they represent. Moreover, this overrepresentation holds true over time. Finally, newspaper coverage is highly concentrated on a small number of sensationalized cases involving four Black men. For example, almost half (802/1680, or 49%) of all coverage since 1989 is concentrated on just four racialized people.

Our qualitative analysis focuses on four Black men living with HIV who have received extensive newspaper coverage. Once more, our findings unequivocally support community concerns about the negative and stereotypical ways ACB men living with HIV are represented. For example, we show how they are represented as dangerous, “foreign others.” One way this happens is when newspaper stories are told in criminal justice time, a technique that objectifies people within a “crime story” genre, treating them primarily as criminal subjects whose personal circumstances are largely ignored. A second way that ACB men living with HIV are represented as dangerous occurs when representations of racialized difference and immigration status are associated with constructions of moral blameworthiness and public health threats. This happens, for example, by including photographs of defendants, by referring to so-called “rare” strains of HIV that originate in African countries, and by identifying defendants by country of origin.

Despite the disconcerting findings, we conclude the report on a hopeful note with possibilities for deepening and extending alternative ways of writing about and representing HIV criminalization. The profound silencing, othering and objectification of ACB defendants in newspaper coverage of HIV non-disclosure criminal cases calls for strategies that create a positive presence, in mainstream media, for ACB men living with HIV. Efforts to work toward that end are underway by ASOs and other organizations that are a part of African, Caribbean and Black communities. We hope that our report will help to inform ongoing public discussion of this issue at such events as the African, Caribbean and Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

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Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada

By: The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network 


In Canada, people living with HIV can be charged and prosecuted for not disclosing their HIV-positive status to a sexual partner in some circumstances. What does disclosure to a sexual partner look like? The act of disclosing one’s HIV status means telling someone you are having sex with that you are HIV-positive. This can include anyone with whom you have a sexual relationship, including your spouse, a regular sexual partner, or someone you might have sex with only once.

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a person living with HIV has a legal duty to disclose their HIV-positive status before having sex that poses a “realistic possibility of transmission.” The Court determined that using a condom and having a low or undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in a person’s blood) negated “a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV.” More than 180 people have been charged to date with HIV non-disclosure.

In Canada, people who face criminal charges related to HIV non-disclosure are typically charged with aggravated sexual assault, one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code. People living with HIV have been charged even if they had no intention to transmit HIV, engaged in behaviours that posed little or even no risk of transmission, and did not in fact transmit HIV to their sexual partners.

The current, overly-broad use of the criminal law increases stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, spreads misinformation about HIV, undermines public health initiatives and ultimately leads to human rights violations. When people living with HIV still experience overt discrimination and physical violence, disclosure is not easy, especially for those on whom criminalization has a disproportionate impact: women, Indigenous people, migrants and members of the African, Caribbean and Black communities. Furthermore, by equating HIV non-disclosure with aggravated sexual assault, Canadian law harms both people living with HIV and survivors of sexual violence.

But we’ve seen some positive developments in recent years.

In 2014, more than 75 prominent Canadian medical experts signed an important consensus statement, which has been an important tool for advocates and has since been used by defense lawyers representing people living with HIV, judges and scientific experts testifying in court with some positive impacts already emerging.

On World AIDS Day (December 1, 2016), federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould made a historic statement acknowledging the problem of the over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure and the need for the criminal justice system to adapt to better reflect the current scientific evidence on HIV transmission. Federal Minister of Health Dr. Jane Philpott, echoing this sentiment, has noted that HIV criminalization in Canada is both a problem and a priority for the government to address.

More recently, the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure has called for an immediate moratorium on all prosecutions in cases of HIV non-disclosure while exploring law reform options and working with the province to establish much-needed prosecutorial guidelines to limit the current misuse and overextension of the criminal law. Since Canada’s Minister of Justice, and Attorney General of Canada, has denounced the overly broad use of the criminal law in Canada, why does Ontario continue to unjustly prosecute people living with HIV? Tell Ontario’s Attorney General, the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, to stop unjust HIV-related prosecutions: click here to send your message.

Here’s hoping that both federal and provincial attorneys general listen and take action.

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Faces of HIV – Fifteen

By Shayne Woodsmith, Faces of Edmonton


“My home country is Zimbabwe. That’s where I came from. I came to Canada in 2014. I love it here. I like the people, they are very friendly. I was telling someone that the Canadians are more friendly when comparing to the British people. It’s so different. I really really love it here … I’ve volunteered at HIV Edmonton as a receptionist since March 2015. When I came to Canada, I first got to Toronto and the only thing they told me is, ‘If you want to get a job in Canada, you have to volunteer.’ I really like to work with people living with HIV. In my country, I didn’t have that opportunity, but when I came to Toronto, I volunteered at the HIV office, which is in Oshawa, and then when I came to Edmonton, they referred me to HIV Edmonton. That’s how I came to volunteer here. It’s of great interest to me … What I’ve noticed is that my people, the black community, they don’t want to like, come out, you know. Maybe because of peer pressure, or whatever. I don’t know, but I always feel that if you come out and be open and tell your story, you live a longer life and it’s better for you. So I’m always praying that these people come. There are some people who come, you know, and they see me at the reception and they say, ‘Oh wow, you’re working here.’ I hope it helps people in coming. I have a lady who is now coming because I said, ‘Oh you should come.’ She started by coming to breakfast, then lunch, and now she attends the discussion groups.”

Photography Credit: Shayne Woodsmith


Ross Armstrong was an activist and he wanted life to be better for those living with HIV. After his diagnosis in 1984, he became a part of HIV Edmonton’s (previously the AIDS Network of Edmonton) team and emerged as the public face of AIDS in Edmonton. Ross died on July 1, 1986, two short years after his diagnosis.

The challenges and suffering Ross endured and the courage he displayed during those first years of the local epidemic led HIV Edmonton to name the hub of our agency – the drop-in centre – the Ross Armstrong Centre, which is a safe, caring place for HIV positive individuals to meet, have a cup of coffee, or share a nutritious community meal.

The Ross Armstrong Centre is a constant reminder that HIV is not always the biggest issue that our clients face. The biggest hurdle for most of our clients is accessing what they need to survive – their basic human needs. Our client programs allow us to support and assist our clients during the most chaotic times in their lives and to alleviate some of the struggles that they face on a daily basis – such as securing the 500 calories that are required to take their HIV medications. In order to continue to support our clients in this way, we rely heavily on the generosity of donors.

All money raised during this campaign will go towards supporting our clients who, in addition to living with HIV, struggle to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter and access to health and social services. It would be amazing if we could reach $5,000 by the end of the series. Even if it’s a small amount, please consider donating: http://tilt.tc/U2VI

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The Importance of the African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Tsion Demeke Abate

I was born and raisedTsion - Hero in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and have been living in Edmonton for over 12 years. Throughout my career, I have worked with marginalized populations and have also taught in higher education institutions in both cities. I am fascinated by broader social justice and human rights issues, and my Master’s thesis was about transforming the lives of women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.


I am happy to say that February 7, 2016 marks the second year of the African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – a day to raise awareness that the risk of HIV infection among African, Caribbean and Black Canadians (ACB) is higher than other Canadians. This day is founded as a national response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic in ACB communities in Canada.

1 in 7 people living with HIV in Canada are ACB while only 1 in 35 people living in Canada are from ACB communities. ACB people face various forms of stigma, discrimination and oppression. In addition, there are factors that increase vulnerability to HIV among ACB people at risk of, or living with, HIV infection such as those based on gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. With alarming indicators such as these, we are hopeful that the African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will provide a platform for discussions around HIV and AIDS.

Perhaps our biggest challenge is HIV-related stigma. It is an obstacle to HIV prevention, testing and treatment. People avoid testing because some fear a positive result and the stigma associated with it. For people living with HIV, fear of disclosure means that the virus remains invisible, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and despair. This continued stress and isolation caused by stigma can worsen the health of people living with HIV.

Further, poor experiences within the healthcare system and a lack of confidence and trust towards healthcare professionals can be a huge deterrent to testing. As a result, people may be reluctant to access health and social services. So, how can we raise awareness about the experience and impact of HIV-related stigma on ACB communities among health and social service professionals? The best way to encourage access to services for ACB communities is through health promotion practices.

That is why the African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is important. We want to encourage people to start a conversation at home and in their communities. We want to be successful in engaging Canada’s ACB communities in a dialogue about HIV and HIV-related stigma.

For helpful information around how we can eliminate stigma and build empowerment within our communities, check out the HIV Stigma in African, Caribbean and Black communities’ factsheet.


Tsion was awarded the 2015 RISE Award (Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton), in community leadership in the Immigrant category. HIV Edmonton is proud to have this outstanding woman as part of the team!


To learn more about CHABAC, visit their website here.
To learn more about African, Caribbean & Black Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, please click here
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HIV and AIDS in the African, Caribbean, and Black Community

By Ngozi Chinwe MbonuACBHIVawarenessribbon4

Today’s workshop, round table discussions of HIV experiences with different stakeholders, all about African Caribbean Black community held in HIV Edmonton was a great start to highlight African Caribbean Black (ACB) community affected with and by HIV and AIDS. The idea is to engage everybody involved with HIV in Edmonton and Alberta to better understand the problems peculiar to this population and to determine the most effective way to support African Caribbean Black community and thereby prevent the transmission of HIV while providing quality of care and support to people living with HIV.

Living with HIV and AIDS cuts across cultures, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. People living with HIV (PLWH) or people affected by HIV and AIDS continue to face stigma everywhere including in Canada. Certain people are more vulnerable. In Canada, African, Caribbean and Black communities are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS.

While 1 in 35 Canadians are African, Caribbean, or Black, approximately 1 in 7 seven people living with HIV in Canada are African, Caribbean and Black Canadian. Within the ACB population, the new infection rate is about 9 times higher than the rest of Canadians.

The theme of the 2015 African, Caribbean and Black Canadian HIV and AIDS Awareness is use a condom, get tested, start a conversation. The common heterosexual means of transmission among this subgroup makes the theme an important one. We need to understand the special issues peculiar to this group to enable us make progress beyond what is already being done. We need to understand the broader perspectives and context in which ACB live to enable us create change in the ACB communities around Edmonton and in Alberta. Access to healthcare, and subsequent retention in care, for those who test HIV positive is very important, and appears to be an area of particular challenge for this population.

The workshop held at HIV Edmonton exactly lays this foundation. The different stakeholders that represent the ACB community, the community organization representatives, the nonprofit organizations and the health care professionals in Edmonton and Alberta shared their experiences in the everyday care and support of PLWH. We need to strengthen community actions to enable us to promote health and provide the health education which is fundamental in achieving the ACB theme use a condom, get tested, start a conversation.

When the workshop concluded, I envisaged an important takeaway. By involving the ACB community, we ensure that we are channeling our efforts in the most effective and economical way. This will help us facilitate useful culturally conscious conversations that will better resonate with the community – this way, we are more likely to realize our 2015 theme of use a condom, get tested, and start a conversation.  This will eventually lead to reduction of HIV transmission and quality of care for people already living with HIV.

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