Taiwan AIDS Society: Decriminalizing People with HIV

People with HIV in Taiwan feel unsafe and discriminated against. Almost half of Taiwan’s population believe that HIV is a terminal disease and that people with HIV should be ashamed of themselves. While sustained education is key to changing mindsets in Taiwan, one piece of legislation stands in the way to truly eliminating bias against HIV sufferers. Article 21 of the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act states that HIV-positive people who fail to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners could face a 12-year jail sentence. Scientific evidence backed by the WHO shows that people whose viral load has been stably suppressed by medication cannot sexually transmit the virus. In other words: Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U). This means that Article 21 is no longer relevant or needed. However, Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) has yet to recognize U=U. As the result, people with HIV live in fear of being reported on by former partners and jailed, even if they are not infectious and the relationship was consensual. Riding on Taiwan’s success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, we raised unprecedented awareness of this fact and moved the needle in changing public opinion about HIV. In the wake of an unexpected public petition to amend Article 21, we pivoted our campaign, helping it achieve the required signature threshold within two months, resulting in the official recognition of U=U by the CDC and amendment of Criteria of Unsafe Sexual Behavior under Article 21, therefore liberating people with HIV from the shackles of a discriminatory law once and for all.