Myanmar has no HIV-specific law, however the Penal Code has two general disease provisions which could be used to prosecute HIV ‘exposure’.
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 ‘malignant’. In both cases, the offence covers people who know the act is likely to transmit an infection, as well as those who have ‘reason to believe’ the same. Transmission is not required; mere ‘exposure’ is sufficient for prosecution.
In February 2020, a bill was published to amend Myanmar’s 1995 Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law, with the stated intention to make the government ‘more responsive’ to outbreaks of disease. The draft bill included provisions prohibiting health officers from releasing news of disease outbreaks that may cause panic (which attracted criticism for restricting freedom of expression), and also included a section which would impose an obligation on people to immediately report family members or employees to government if they suspect they have a disease (section 15(b)), raising concerns that people living with HIV may be vulnerable to acts such as being dismissed by employers. It does not appear that the law was adopted in Myanmar.
To date we are not aware of any HIV cases in Myanmar.
Section 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.
Section 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.