HIV transmission as a crime
Criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission threaten public health, argue Ruth Lowbury and George R Kinghorn
Around the world, criminal prosecutions for the transmission of HIV have been in the news recently.12 Some countries have adopted a policy of prosecuting certain cases, in which transmission is characterised as intentional, reckless, or negligent. These include 21 countries out of 41 that responded to a European survey, with the number of reported prosecutions in each country between one and more than 30.3
Globally, different types of law have been used to criminalise the transmission of HIV. Some jurisdictions have created new offences specific to HIV-for example, some states in the United States. Some countries have applied pre-existing offences, such as grievous bodily harm in the United Kingdom. Countries such as Sweden have used public health legislation, and others have used a combination-for example, Australia.4 In some countries, prosecutions require actual transmission of infection, but, elsewhere, behaviour with the potential for transmission suffices.
There may also be little consistency