Antigua & Barbuda: 'Intentional HIV spread' rumours lead to calls for HIV-specific criminal law

The head of a local HIV/AIDS advocacy group is calling for residents to be more mindful of their sexual behaviour amidst rumors that people are intentionally spreading the HIV virus to others. The advice comes from Executive Director of the Antigua & Barbuda HIV/AIDS Network Inc (ABHAN) Eleanor Frederick.

“We cannot stop sending the message out there that HIV is alive and well and that we have to protect ourselves,” she said.

“Each person must take responsibility. First know their status and know their partner’s status. Use protection.”

An email to OBSERVER media from the Attorney General’s office stated that the Minster, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, was recently presented with information to suggest that several residents have been intentionally infecting others with HIV.

In light of the allegations, an anonymous group of concerned citizens have called on Benjamin to enact laws to hold the culprits accountable.

“The group said that such vicious actions, in their estimation, is a matter of national security, and many lives are at risk and action needs to be taken soonest,” the missive read.

Benjamin, who is the country’s national security minister said he has promised that further research will be done to see what laws can be introduced to deal with the situation.

He is calling on members of society to protect themselves.

Frederick said she would support any move to criminalise the intentional spread of HIV/AIDS.

“I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. It’s not always a deterrent because when people are intent they couldn’t care less. There are those that decide they’re going to infect someone no matter what and there are others who will think twice about it, so we have to put something there,” she said.

Several countries across the world already have legislation condemning the intentional or reckless infection of another person with the HIV virus.

Some areas of the US have enacted laws expressly to criminalize HIV transmission or exposure, charging those accused with criminal transmission of HIV.

Others, including the United Kingdom, charge the accused under existing laws with crimes such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, or assault.