Criminal Law, Public Health and HIV Transmission: A Policy Options Paper

To assist in the development of sound public policy, this paper, prepared for UNAIDS:

  • proposes some principles that should guide thinking about, and development of, law and policy on the question of criminal law and HIV/AIDS;
  • identifies a number of public policy considerations that states should take into account when making decisions about the use of the criminal law;
  • considers the alternative to criminalization presented by public health laws;
  • discusses if and how the criminal law might be justifiably applied, considering in particular: (a) whether HIV-specific legislation is warranted; (b) which acts that transmit HIV or carry the risk of transmission could be subject to criminal sanctions; (c) what degree of mental culpability should be required to impose criminal sanctions;
  • concludes with recommendations to governments, police, prosecutors, judges and public health authorities regarding the appropriate use of criminal sanctions and coercive public health measures.



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