The overly broad application of criminal law to HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission raises serious human rights and public health concerns. Because of these concerns, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) urges States to (i) concentrate their efforts on expanding the use of proven and successful evidence-informed and rights-based public health approaches to HIV prevention, treatment and care, and (ii) limit any application of criminal law to truly blameworthy cases where it is needed to achieve justice. States should strengthen HIV programmes that enable people to know how to protect themselves from HIV and to avoid transmitting it, and they should help people access the services and commodities they need for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
As stated in the Policy brief on criminalisation of HIV transmission— issued in 2008 by UNAIDS and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—the concerns raised by the overly broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission can be addressed in part by limiting the application of criminal law to cases of intentional transmission (i.e. where a person knows his or her HIV-positive status, acts with the intention to transmit HIV, and does in fact transmit it).
Though UNAIDS stands by this position, it is concerned by the continued application of criminal law beyond intentional transmission to cases involving unintentional HIV transmission, non-disclosure of HIV status, or exposure to HIV where HIV was not transmitted. As a result, this document not only restates UNAIDS’ position, but it also provides specific considerations and recommendations to address the concerns raised in all cases where criminal law is applied to HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission. It offers these to help governments, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and civil society—including people living with HIV—to achieve the goal of limiting and hopefully ending the overly broad application of criminal law to HIV.
These considerations and recommendations are also provided to help ensure, to the best degree possible, that any application of criminal law in the context of HIV achieves justice and does not undermine public health.
Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS
A PDF of the full document is attached below