What do I need to know about HIV transmission and the law?

In a number of countries, criminal law is being used in cases where HIV has been passed on from one person to another (transmission), or even when there is a perceived risk that this might have happened (exposure). This is mostly applied to cases of possible sexual transmission.

In some cases, existing laws on assault are used. In others, legislation has been created especially to deal with the situation where someone is considered to have exposed someone to HIV or passed it on.

This is sometimes called either ‘intentional’ (where someone is considered to have acted deliberately) or ‘reckless’ (where they were considered not to have taken enough care to avoid exposure or passing on HIV).

It generally means that someone did not disclose their HIV-positive status to their sexual partner, and did not take enough care to avoid the risk of transmission. The detail of the laws varies a lot from country to country.

This area of law is very complicated, especially as it can be very hard to prove (or disprove) someone’s role and behaviour in exposing or transmitting HIV to another person.

If you have a complaint made against you under one of these laws, it is very important that you get expert legal advice as soon as possible. An HIV support organisation is often a good place to start in finding this advice.

If you think you would like to make a complaint against someone, it’s equally important you get some advice and the chance to talk it through. Once you go to the police, it can be hard to change your mind about this action. An HIV organisation will be able to help you make a decision about the best action to take.

Next review date