In 2010 a Guyanese parliamentarian put forward a bill, the Criminal Responsibility of HIV Infected Individuals, which would have created a new HIV-specific law and explicitly criminalised transmission of HIV. However, in 2011 this was unanimously rejected by the Special Select Committee of Parliament which argued that existing general criminal laws are sufficient to deal with these issues. It added that the proposed law would only further the stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV and would do nothing to help stop the spread.
The general laws under the Criminal Law (Offences) Act which were noted to be applicable included the assault provisions. For instance, Articles 49 and 50 criminalise assault resulting in actual bodily harm, and unlawful and malicious wounding or the infliction of grievous bodily harm, respectively. Both offences carry a sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
Additionally, perceived exposure to HIV is an aggravating factor for the offence of “trafficking in persons” under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 2005. Article 8 states that if in the course of trafficking, the convicted person “recklessly caused a trafficked person to be exposed to a life-threatening illness”, their sentence can be increased by five years. The term ‘life-threatening illness’ is explicitly stated to include HIV.
Despite the applicability of general laws to the criminalisation of HIV transmission, no prosecutions have been reported.
Criminal Law (Offences) Act
Section 49 Assault causing actual bodily harm
Everyone who assaults any person so as to cause him actual bodily harm shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for five years.
Section 50 Unlawful Wounding
Everyone who unlawfully and maliciously wounds or inflicts any grievous bodily harm upon any person, whether with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for five years.
Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 2005
Chapter 10:06 Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act
Part II – Criminal offences and related provisions
8.(1) As factually appropriate, the following adjustments to the sentence of a person convicted on indictment of the crime of trafficking in persons may apply-
(d) if, in the course of trafficking or subsequent exploitation, the convicted person recklessly caused a trafficked person to be exposed to a life threatening illness, or if the convicted person intentionally caused a trafficked person to become addicted to any drug or medication, five years may be added to the sentence;
(2) In this section- (…)
“Life-threatening illness” means any illness that involves a substantial risk of death, and includes Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection and Tuberculosis.
Our thanks to Dentons Law Firm and UNAIDS for their research assistance to confirm current relevant legislation.