Criminalization of HIV exposure or transmission: Stakeholder views and beliefs and effects on behaviour


Key take-home messages
  • There is limited research evidence available to inform each of the questions posed by this review and the findings presented should be interpreted with caution.
  • The available research evidence from the United States suggests that people living with HIV are: aware of criminal laws requiring disclosure of their HIV status to prospective sexual partners; understand most elements of these laws; and are supportive of these laws. However, these findings are based on two small studies (one a survey and the other based on interviews) in two states.
  • Research evidence from the United Kingdom is mixed with a large survey of 8542 gay men finding that approximately half were supportive of HIV-specific criminal laws and slightly less than a fifth being opposed to such laws (the remaining were unsure). In contrast, findings from qualitative studies found considerable confusion among participants about criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission with one study reporting that most were critical of, and opposed the criminalization of HIV transmission.
  • One study based in the United States found that a sample of people at elevated risk for HIV living in a state with a criminal law specifically regulating the sexual behavior of people living with HIV (Illinois) were minimally different in self-reported sexually behaviour as compared to a similar sample in a state without an HIV-specific law (New York).
  • A qualitative study in the United Kingdom found mixed reactions to how the law had impacted them personally with some highlighting that prosecutions had not influenced their behavior while others indicated that they had (or planned to) change their behavior and/or communicate differently with their sexual partners due to the potential for legal intrusion into their lives.


The Ontario HIV Treatment Network: Rapid Response Service




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • Other
  • Health Systems
    • Governance arrangements


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