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.
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.
Twenty scientists from regions across the world developed this Expert Consensus Statement to address the use of HIV science by the criminal justice system. Description of the possibility of HIV transmission was limited to acts most often at issue in criminal cases. The authors recommend that caution be exercised when considering prosecution, and encourage governments and those working in legal and judicial systems to pay close attention to the significant advances in HIV science that have occurred over the last three decades to ensure current scientific knowledge informs application of the law in cases related to HIV.