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Legislating the pandemic: A global survey of HIV/AIDS in criminal law


There have been increasing numbers of prosecutions and convictions of HIV-positive persons worldwide. This article reviews laws in a variety of countries used to prosecute HIV-positive people for HIV-related offenses and gives descriptions of some of the more common terms used in these prosecutions. It examines the types of criminal codes, most often not HIV-specific, that have been applied to criminal cases, legislation passed specifically to deal with HIV, as well as some central legal cases. In addition, the paper offers warnings about the continued application of criminal law to HIV/AIDS, either through current statutes or through new HIV-specific legislation. Most experts in the field call for a review of current laws and for the necessary reforms to ensure basic human rights.

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Correspondence to Heather Worth.

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Worth, H., Patton, C. & McGehee, M.T. Legislating the pandemic: A global survey of HIV/AIDS in criminal law. Sex Res Soc Policy 2, 15 (2005).

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Key words

  • criminal codes
  • criminalization of HIV
  • HIV-specific law