Written by Marianne Møllman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.
Earlier this month, a 31-year-old
woman in Sweden was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for having unprotected sex without disclosing to her partner beforehand that she is living with HIV.
Even a perfunctory news search reveals that this is not the first time the Swedish justice system has applied criminal sanctions to potential HIV-transmission. In January, a 20-year-old
man was sentenced to eight months in prison for having unprotected sex without disclosing his status. In December 2006, a 34-year-old
woman got two months, and in January 2003, a 32-year-old
woman one year. All of these sentences also required the person living with HIV to pay monetary damages to their former sex-partners.
For anyone who cares about human rights from a health and discrimination angle, these cases raise multiple red flags.
For starters, consensual sex between consenting adults should, in principle, never be subject to government control or regulation. Moreover, the criminalization of HIV transmission has multiple negative outcomes. It leads
to distrust in the health and justice systems; it can discourage people from seeking to know their HIV status; it adds to the stigmatization of those living with HIV; and it is ineffective in bringing down HIV transmission.