Vertical HIV Transmission Should Be Excluded from Criminal Prosecution
Posted: 4 Feb 2010
Date Written: November 1, 2009
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) is an important part of global and national responses to HIV and AIDS. In recent years, many countries have adopted laws to criminalise HIV transmission and exposure. Many of these laws are broadly written and have provisions that enable criminal prosecution of vertical transmission in some circumstances. Even if prosecutions have not yet materialised, the use of these laws against HIV-positive pregnant women could compound the stigma already faced by them and have a chilling effect on women’s utilisation of prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes. Although criminal laws targeting HIV transmission have often been proposed and adopted with the intent of protecting women, such laws may disadvantage women instead. Criminal laws on HIV transmission and exposure should be reviewed and revised to ensure that vertical transmission is explicitly excluded as an object of criminal prosecution. Scaling up PMTCT services and ensuring that they are affordable, accessible, welcoming and of good quality is the most effective strategy for reducing vertical transmission of HIV and should be the primary strategy in all countries.
Keywords: pregnancy-related HIV transmission, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, criminalisation, law and policy, human rights
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