Vertical HIV Transmission Should Be Excluded from Criminal Prosecution

Posted: 4 Feb 2010

See all articles by Joanne Csete

Joanne Csete

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Richard Pearshouse

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alison Symington

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Date Written: November 1, 2009

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Csete, Joanne and Pearshouse, Richard and Symington, Alison, Vertical HIV Transmission Should Be Excluded from Criminal Prosecution (November 1, 2009). Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 17, No. 34, pp. 154-162, November 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1543807

Joanne Csete (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Richard Pearshouse

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alison Symington

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ( email )

600 - 1240 Bay St.
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2A7
Canada

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