Penalty for knowingly infecting others with HIV
If you live on social media, you may have come across several people sharing lists, or alleging to have lists, of people they’ve intentionally infected with HIV.
The most recent case happened late last year where a university student alleged that she had intentionally transmitted the virus to many unknowing men.
As always, Twitter was on fire with most people making fun of the situation, others requesting the full list, with some condemning the act.
What does the law say about this act of intentionally transmitting the virus to others?
The law and consequences
In Kenya and many countries around the world, if you know you are living with HIV and engage in actions that can put other people at risk of contracting HIV without telling them about your status, you are committing a crime called criminal transmission.
The most common example of criminal transmission is knowing that you are living with HIV and having unprotected sex with somebody without first informing them of your status.
Kenya has had a number of laws relating to transmission of HIV, with an ongoing tussle between government and advocates working through the Courts to challenge those laws for more than a decade.
The current Sexual Offences Act in Kenya makes it illegal for a person who knows they have HIV to intentionally, knowingly, and willfully do anything or permit anything they should reasonably know is likely to transmit HIV. The penalty ranges from 15 years to life imprisonment.
Kenya’s Penal Code also contains a provision that could be used for HIV criminalization, making it a criminal offense for a person to negligently undertake any act which he or she knows or has reason to believe is likely to spread a disease dangerous to someone’s life.
It is important to note that the specific laws on this subject vary from country to country. In some countries people are prosecuted only if their partners end up getting infected with HIV.
In other countries, just the act of exposing your partner to the risk of infection is considered a crime. This is called criminal exposure.
Some countries consider the act a crime only when you have unprotected sex with the intent of passing HIV to your partner. This is called intentional transmission.
Do the right thing
Telling your partner(s) that you are living with HIV is not just the right thing to do: if you don’t do it, you could break the law.
However, you also have to know that status disclosure is personal and occurs through a process. Feel free to decide when it’s appropriate for you to talk to your partner(s) about your status. The most important thing is that you should inform them before you get intimate with them to engage in any activity that puts them at risk.