Czech Republic: 18 year-old pregnant woman gets 2 1/2 years for HIV non-disclosure

Edwin J Bernard - February 2, 2012

An 18 year-old pregnant woman from Eastern Bohemia in the Czech Republic, coinfected with both HIV and Hepatitis C, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison last week for not disclosing that she was HIV-positive before having unprotected sex with her 19 year-old boyfriend. The judge, Miroslav Veselský, classified the ‘crime’ of HIV non-disclosure as ‘attempted grievous bodily harm’.

This is only the fourth-ever prosecution for HIV non-disclosure prior to unprotected sex in the Czech Republic of which we are aware – and the first-ever prosecution of a woman. A young pregnant woman at that.  A young pregnant woman who spent her entire life in foster homes and juvenile institutions according to the two news reports of the case here (English translation here) and here (English translation here).

She was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C at the age of 15 and a year later was treated for dependence on methamphetamine and heroin. After turning 18 she was moved to a social care home  (where, according to Czech law, people with HIV must disclose their status), and the social care staff monitored her private life.

When staff learned that she was going out with a person named in the news reports as John N., they told her to disclose her health status to him or face the consequences.

“She told me that she has hepatitis C. The HIV – she said nothing, probably wanted to be with me and she was afraid of losing me.”

It transpires that John was not a complainant in the case, but simply a witness. It was the care home staff who notified the police. In fact, John stated that although almost all of their sexual encounters were unprotected, he acquired neither HIV nor hepatitis C. Another partner, who went out with the young woman after her relationship with John ended also testified that he knew that the the young woman was HIV-positive and wore a condom.

The young woman was actually tried in absentia, at her own request, because she is eight months pregnant. Justice Veselský told the court he had never come across a case like this in 30 years on the bench and although the usual sentence for attempted grievous bodily harm is five to twelve years, he listened to appeals from both the defending and prosecuting counsel and decided to be “pragmatic” and “lenient” with the 2 1/2 year sentence.

The young woman has already served four months in custody, and can apply for parole in 15 months. This means, of course, that she will give birth in prison. In early February she will be taken to a detention hospital in Prague to prepare for childbirth.