Myanmar has no HIV-specific law but the Penal Code has two provisions which may be used to address HIV exposure or transmission. Section 269 states that unlawfully or negligently undertaking an act likely to spread an infection dangerous to life is punishable by six months imprisonment and/or a fine. Section 270 increases the penalty to up to two years and/or a fine when the act is a ‘malignant act’. In both cases, the offence includes not only a person knowing the act is likely to transmit an infection, but also having ‘reason to believe’ the act is likely to transmit the infection; effectively lowering the threshold for a charge to be laid.
To date there has been no known prosecution for HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission.
In February 2020, a bill was published to amend Myanmar’s 1995 Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law. The stated intention of the bill is to make the government ‘more responsive’ to outbreaks of disease. It includes provisions prohibiting health officers from releasing news of disease outbreaks that may cause panic, but also imposes an obligation on people to immediately report family members or employees to government if they suspect they have a disease (at 15b). The provision has raised concerns that employees with HIV may be dismissed by employers.
The Penal Code
Penal Code, 1861
Offences Affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals
269 – Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life
Whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
270 – Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life
Whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread, the infection of any disease dangerous to life shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
This report presents the key findings and recommendations of the review of Myanmar's legal framework and its impact on access to health and HIV prevention and treatment services for people living with HIV and key populations. This review was undertaking in partnership with UNAIDS, UNDP in consultation with the national AIDS Programme.
Our thanks to Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox for their research assistance to confirm current relevant legislation.