Aimed at professionals working in the criminal justice system and those who may be called as expert witnesses in criminal trials, the briefing explains how phylogenetic analysis should and should not be used in criminal trials for the reckless transmission of HIV.
Considers the usefulness of phylogenetic analysis in HIV criminal trials, finding that phylogenetic analysis cannot prove that HIV transmission occurred directly between two individuals. Explains that phylogenetic analysis can exonerate individuals by demonstrating that the defendant carried a virus strain unrelated to that of the complainant.
Questions the merits of a phylogentics article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and warns against relying on its conclusions.
Considers the validity and meaning of scientific tests (Recent Infection Testing Algorithm) to estimate the likelihood of a recent infection in persons diagnosed as HIV positive in the context of prosecutions for HIV transmission.
Presents data comparing HIV infection to other sexually transmitted infections. Shows that other sexually transmitted infections can pose similar, equal or greater risks than HIV (pages 24-26 in Ending and Defending Against HIV Criminalization: A Manual For Advocates. Vol 2: A Legal Toolkit Resources for Attorneys Handling HIV-Related Prosecutions).
Lays out both research and the basic science of HIV in a way that is accessible and usable for lawyers and advocates. Addresses misconceptions and arguments often missing from HIV related legal cases. The content is organized by key arguments or bodies of research that have not easily made the jump from scholarship to the courtroom.
Revisits HIV court case investigations published in the scientific literature, as well as the methodological aspects important for the application and standardization of phylogenetic analyses methods as a forensic tool. Concludes that there has been a lack of consistency between methods and that it is essential to define guidelines to be used by phylogenetic forensic experts in HIV transmission cases.