Introduction Overly broad laws criminalising HIV and/or STI non-disclosure, exposure and/or non-intentional transmission exist in countries across the globe. Although some laws are HIV-specific, many prosecutions take place under general criminal or public health laws which allow for STI-related prosecutions. Although most attention has focused on HIV-related prosecutions, a growing number of prosecutions and new or proposed laws also relate to other STIs.
Methods A desk review of criminal proceedings, policy documents and newspaper reports related to HIV and STI-related laws and prosecutions in 2014–15.
Results Most reported HIV-related prosecutions continue to take place in North America, but are also being reported in every region of the world. Whilst international and local advocacy has delivered significant challenges to inappropriate and overly broad HIV-specific laws in a number of jurisdictions, and the science of HIV risk, harm and proof has had a significant impact on law and policy in some North American and Western European jurisdictions, new overly broad HIV-specific or STI-related laws continue to be proposed or enacted. Many HIV-related laws and prosecutions continue to inappropriately focus on spitting or non-disclosure even when no transmission is alleged, whilst others ignore the HIV prevention effect of condoms and/or antiretroviral therapy. In addition, laws and prosecutions for other STIs, including for gonorrhoea, herpes, and syphilis, as well as sexually transmitted hepatitis B and C, and potentially even Ebola, are increasing.
Conclusion Criminal justice actors and law- and policymakers struggle with the science around HIV and STI risks, harm and proof, and are unaware of the unintended deleterious impacts of such laws and prosecutions. Scientists and clinicians have a key role to play to influence individual cases and broader laws and policies relating to prosecutions for HIV and STIs non-disclosure, exposure and/or transmission in order to improve both public health and human rights.
Disclosure of interest statement The HIV Justice Network is funded by Monument Trust, UK. No pharmaceutical grants were received in the development of this study.