Criminalisation of HIV transmission

Topic Selected: AIDS & HIV

General Article icon Type: General Article

The criminal law was first used in the context of HIV transmission in England in 2003 when an individual was found culpable for HIV transmission under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Two sections of the act relating to ‘grievous bodily harm’ can be used to prosecute HIV transmission: Section 18, ‘intentional transmission’ and Section 20, ‘reckless transmission’. However, there has never been a successful prosecution for intentional transmission. Moreover, in England and Wales it is not possible to be charged for ‘exposure’ where there has been no transmission.

However, the law in Scotland is different. A common law offence of ‘culpable and reckless conduct’, which may also be called ‘causing real injury’, is used. Importantly, exposure to a sexually transmitted infection without transmission actually taking place may be a crime in Scotland.

In England and Wales, someone may be guilty of

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