Ghana: Calls for new HIV-specific criminal law heeded by AIDS Commission

The Ghana AIDS Commission is undertaking a legal audit to establish whether there is a need for a new HIV-specific criminal law against “deliberate” transmission, according to a report from Ghanian radio station, Joy.

According to the report, some members of a PLHIV self-help group, Models of Hope, have claimed that the phenomenon of deliberate transmission is “very prevalent” in Ghana.

Reports say people get affected by the virus through another person’s premeditated action. Affected persons who have their conditions alleviated by antiretroviral drugs are said to deliberately spread the virus to unsuspecting persons by having unprotected sex with them. Some even go to radio stations to boast of their escapade, thus causing panic in those who have engaged in, most often, unprotected sex with them.

Dr Angela El-Adas, Director General of the Commission, told the radio station that “this legal audit will tell us what we have in terms of the legislative instruments that can enforce any action that we take or can back an action that we take”, but that the Commission is also mindful of the human rights of people living with HIV.

In 2006, the Ghana Chapter of the Society For Women Against AIDS In Africa (SWAA) began lobbying policymakers and parliamentarians to adopt a version the AWARE-HIV/AIDS model law. At the same time Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Office initiated a process to incorporate’ wilful transmission’ into the Criminal Code.

It was thought that the process has stalled by 2008, but since most of their neighbours already have passed HIV-specific criminal legislation based on this horrendous model law, it is not surprising that Ghana is following this path. Twelve other countries in Western Africa have passed their own adaptations of law since 2005 and at least 25 African countries now have HIV-specific criminal laws.