In the straight community, though, I suspect that knowledge of transmission methods, etc. is much, much less. Certainly the errant judge who wanted a poz witness in his courtroom to wear a mask and the exhibits be handled with rubber gloves points to that fact. Or was that an aberration?
In any event, the ruling is now out on that judge’s conduct. You can read about it below.
(The ruling illustrates, I think, that stigma can be challenged individually - we can all do our part - but also systemically, by the orgnazations that represent us. Here’s a great example of the latter. Hats off to HALCO and the HIV/AIDS Legal Network for going to bat for us.)
This is a small victory, but an important one, don’t you think?:
JUDGE ADMITS INAPPROPRIATE TREATMENT OF
TORONTO, January 12, 2009 —
On January 6, 2008, the Legal Network and HALCO lodged a formal complaint with the Ontario Judicial Council regarding the conduct of Justice Jon-Jo Douglas of the Ontario Court of Justice (Central East Region). During a December 2007 trial, when it was revealed that a witness had HIV and hepatitis C, Justice Douglas ordered that the witness wear a mask or give his testimony remotely from another courtroom. Media also reported that court staff donned rubber gloves and enclosed exhibits touched by the witness in sealed plastic bags.
When this treatment of the witness was challenged by the Crown attorney, even with expert medical evidence that HIV and hepatitis C are only transmitted through contact with certain body fluids, Justice Douglas rejected this evidence about well-established, non-controversial facts and ordered the trial proceed with the witness masked.
As a result of the complaint lodged by the Legal Network and HALCO, a subcommittee of the Judicial Council conducted an investigation and submitted a report to a review panel. In the Council’s response, it revealed that subcommittee members recognized that “Justice Douglas treated a witness differently.” Furthermore, members “noted that judges should not be influenced by stereotypes, myths or prejudices.” They agreed that Justice Douglas’ conduct “suggested that he may need further education about the transmission of HIV/AIDS.” The review panel referred the matter to the Chief Justice of Ontario for discussion with Justice Douglas.
In its final decision, the Judicial Council found that Justice Douglas has “taken steps to address those concerns, and that he has learned from the experience,” including seeking education about HIV from a local AIDS organization. He has “acknowledged that his behaviour was inappropriate” and expressed regret for any harm resulting from his behaviour.
“We are pleased that the Ontario Judicial Council has recognized this conduct is unacceptable,” said Ryan Peck, Executive Director of HALCO. “There is no place for such misinformation and prejudice anywhere, especially in the justice system. People living with HIV deserve equal, respectful treatment.”
The Chief Justice of Ontario has also indicated that the Court’s education committee will be asked to include material on HIV/AIDS in future educational sessions for judges.
“We encourage the Education Secretariat of the Ontario Court of Justice to honour this request and look forward to assisting them with efforts to ensure that judges have accurate, comprehensive information about HIV,” said Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Legal Network.