Namibia: Criminal Law Not Effective Against HIV

Published: February 20, 2015

Original Article:

THE CONFESSIONS of the 40-year-old man who went on a "deliberate spree to infect as many other people as possible" in 2002 (The Namibian, 14 January 2015) sparked a series of media reports in the past few weeks, which featured calls from the public for the enactment of an HIV-specific crime of intentional transmission of HIV.

The push to apply criminal law to HIV exposure and transmission is often driven by the wish to respond to serious concerns about the ongoing spread of HIV, coupled by what is perceived to be a failure of existing HIV prevention efforts.

No one suggests that a person who, knowing he has HIV, sets out intending to infect another, and achieves his aim, ought to escape prosecution. In these cases, as infrequent as they may be, the victims and their society seek justice because harm was caused with clear intention.

There is, however, no need to enact a new HIV-specific law to address this situation. We have existing common law crimes that can be applied. Where we seek to apply these, we must ensure that the use of criminal law in relation to HIV should be guided by the current best available scientific and medical evidence.

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