Zambia: Network of people living with HIV react to last week’s prosecution of a Zambian man in Wales for reckless HIV transmission, say HIV criminalisation is unworkable and unjust

THE Network of Zambian People Living with HIV and AIDS says criminalizing HIV transmission cannot work in a country like Zambia which has a high prevalence rate of the disease. Commenting on a story in Swansea, Great Britain where a Zambian man has been jailed for seven years after infecting two women with HIV, NZP+ programme manager Kunyima Banda in an interview described the situation as unfortunate.

According to the South Wales Evening Post, Mweetwa Muleya, 28, had unprotected sex with two women knowing he had HIV and he failed to tell them about his HIV condition before having sex with them. A court heard the women were “devastated” to find out they had caught the life changing illness after going for blood tests.

Asked if Zambia could also introduce a law to criminalize HIV infection, Banda said criminalizing HIV infection would becomes a barrier for people to access HIV/AIDS services.

“It is not right to willfully infect another person but it would be difficult for Zambia because you have to establish whether willful infection did take place, whether the person at a time that they had intercourse, the other person never knew that the partner was infected, that has to be determined as well. You also have to determine that the person actually did want to infect on purpose,” Banda said.

She said Zambia’s current system could not allow the criminalization of HIV because the country was putting interventions where more people could go for be testing.

“If we have a law which criminalizes HIV infection, it means that a lot of people will not go for HIV testing. What it will mean is that if people do not want to know their status, chances of them infecting other people then becomes higher because then they do not know that they are infected with HIV,” Banda said.

“Just imagine if a pregnant woman who has no access to medical facilities then gives birth and the baby gets infected, what do you call that? So all those are issues that we need to consider to make that law in Zambia which will not work for us because we are looking at getting to the 90- 90 target where 90 per cent of the people knowing their status, 90 per cent of people getting their treatment,” she said.

Banda said her organization could not support the criminalization of HIV infection.

She however said NZP+ did not encourage people to go out and infect other people willfully.