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Health unit drops charges against dozens of gay men

Participants of the Prague Pride 2016 march at Wenceslas Square in August. Photo: Bohemist

Gay rights groups celebrate as controversial case is dropped on a ‘lack of evidence.’

By BOHEMIST STAFF

PRAGUE – The Prague Public Health Authority last week dropped charges against 30 gay men living with HIV in a controversial case that accused the men of intentionally spreading the disease by having unprotected sex, according to local and international news sources.

The investigation into the matter was launched in January when it came to light that the men had visited health clinics with symptoms of other sexually transmitted infections, leading officials to believe they had been having unprotected sex in the knowledge that they had HIV.

The following month, they were charged under Sections 152 and 153 of the Czech Criminal Code, citing the “negligent spreading of contagious human diseases” and “endangering public health by unhealthy food and other objects.”

The lawsuit sparked outrage in the gay community here in the Czech Republic and abroad as intolerant and a violation of basic human rights.

“It violates the fundamental human right to personal integrity and privacy…and breaches the Czech Republic’s international obligations under the existing National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” several gay rights activist groups including EU HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum, AIDS Action Europe, European AIDS Treatment Group, Global Network of People Living with HIV, HIV in Europe and HIV Justice Network said in an open letter dated February 19.

“The initiation of criminal prosecution against people living with HIV for alleged intentional gross bodily harm – despite the lack of a single complainant – raises grave concerns regarding the inappropriate application of criminal law to people living with HIV.”

It is currently a criminal offense to expose others to HIV if you are aware of your status in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, the authorities were forced to drop the case last week apparently due a lack of evidence.

“I’m delighted that these charges have been dropped. Criminalization of HIV is intended to prevent infections. In reality, it does no such thing,” Matthew Hodson, executive director of NAM, which provides independent information on HIV and viral hepatitis, was quoted as saying.

The number of people infected with HIV in the Czech Republic remains low when compared to other countries. Still, the situation appears to be getting worse with each passing year. In 2015, 266 new cases of the infection were registered, while February of this year saw the most new cases in a single month since 1985.

The Czech AIDS Help Society / Česká společnost AIDS pomoc, stated in an Op-Ed for Bohemist in August that up to 80 percent of all new cases in the Czech Republic are among men having sex with men.

“With one in four infected people not being diagnosed, hundreds of people are unaware they have the virus. People who are not diagnosed, do not have the drugs they need, they remain infectious, and the virus is spreading like wildfire among Czech gay community,” it stated.

About Bohemist

Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

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