‘Willful transmission’ clause getting HIV+ persons jailed

Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Law Advisor Keikantse Phele says HIV positive people are at more risk of being judged unfairly in the courts of law as they have been observing a rising number of cases related to willful infection of sexual partners with HIV. She says though such cases are always hard to prove, people living with HIV are at a disadvantage because according to Section 16 of the Public Health Act of 2013, they are the ones held responsible for taking all measures and precautions to prevent the virus from being transmitted to other people, thus taking all the responsibility from people who are HIV negative. She said this does not support behavioral change and only sets the country’s gains back.

“What we want to communicate to the public is that, this is happening, people are going to jail over this. The issue about the public Health Act is that it is a deviation from human rights. It is as if an HIV person is alone in a relationship. In many cases partners do not do couple testing and indulge in unprotected sex without insisting on knowing each other status. On the other hand others mislead their partners that they are HIV negative so we are not saying people should infect others with HIV, what we are saying is that everyone regardless of their HIV status should all take responsibility for their health. People should insist on knowing their partner’s status or at least use protection because we have realized that a lot of people with cases relating to willful transmission of HIV have no history of testing but they come here with suspicions that they have been infected.”  Phele said.

BONELA Programs Manager, Felistus Motimedi said they get about three cases a week, usually young women who suspect their partners of having infected them with HIV. “We are trying to encourage people to take responsibility to avoid being tried using this law. This is why as BONELA we were against the Public Health bill being passed into law. The best way to protect yourself and others is by practicing safe sex, because there is no guarantee that you wouldn’t go to jail even if you claim not to have known you are HIV positive. The cases are very complex and challenging.”
BONELA recently raised concern over the rising cases of willful infection.