HIV transmission should be decriminalized: HIV prevention programs depend on it

Retrovirology. 2008 Dec 1;5:108. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-5-108.


Whenever there is a sensational criminal case involving HIV transmission, the media cover it with far more gusto than they usually devote to scientific advances in the field. For example, a murder trial is now taking place in Canada involving a man who has been accused of sexually transmitting HIV to 11 different women, two of whom have died of their infections. Moreover, it is alleged that the accused perpetrator deliberately withheld from these women the fact that he was HIV-positive and that he refused to use a condom during intercourse. Notwithstanding that the suspect is possibly psychopathic and uncaring, or possibly of low intelligence and unable to assess the consequence of his actions, most people probably hope that he is convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned for his acts. Furthermore, most people probably wish for the criminal justice system to pursue these cases with vigour. In fact, however, people should understand that such legal action, and the willingness of the courts to hear these cases, will only weaken the global battle against HIV transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Male