HIV and the Law

In England and Wales it is illegal to ‘recklessly transmit’ HIV to another person – but what does this mean?

Some people have been prosecuted for passing on HIV.  Under the law, this is referred to as Reckless Transmission.


Reckless Transmission is when someone did not try to prevent HIV from being transmitted.  It does not mean that they did it deliberately.


The law is broken if:


  • someone knows that they are HIV positive when they have sex
  • and  they understand how HIV is transmitted
  • and  the other person was not aware of the HIV positive status
  • and  a condom was not used
  • and  HIV was transmitted from person A to person B


Transmission must take place for the law to have been broken in England and Wales; it is not illegal to have sex without disclosing.


Disclosing to sexual partners is advisable where possible, but if you feel that you can't do this, always use a condom to reduce the risk of transmission.  If the condom breaks or comes off, then it is advisable to disclose your HIV status promptly and recommend that the other person accesses PEP.  PEP is thought to be an adequate defence against reckless transmission, but it has not been tested in an actual case to date.


George House Trust believes that criminalising HIV transmission can add to the general misunderstanding of HIV, and even increase stigma.  We would not support anyone wishing to press charges against somebody else.


We would support anyone individually who has been affected by this issue, and if you would like to speak to someone about this please get in touch.


Living with HIV? Want to talk to us?
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