All Woman

Jamaican laws silent on spreading of HIV/AIDS

Donna Hussey-Whyte

Sunday, March 23, 2014    

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The intentional or reckless infection of a person with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is considered a crime in many countries and punishable by law.

But according to Margarette Macaulay, attorney-at-law and women's and children's affairs advocate, there is nothing in the Jamaican law to deal with situations where a person knowing of his or her infection, knowingly or wilfully exposes another person to infection by engaging in unsafe sexual conduct with that person and thereby intentionally or recklessly transmitting a venereal disease (STDs, and STIs) or HIV/AIDS.

"The need for legislation to deal with the pandemic of HIV/AIDS is obvious," Macaulay said. "The 1937 Venereal Disease Act is archaic, and so, woefully inadequate for the epidemic propositions of infections from STDs and STIs and HIV/AIDS. We must not forget the increasing number of children born with the infection," she said.

Some countries or jurisdictions, including some areas of the United States have enacted laws expressly to criminalise HIV transmission or exposure, charging those accused with criminal transmission of HIV. Others, including the United Kingdom, charge the accused under existing laws with such crimes as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, or assault.

In 1995 the Ethical sub-committee of the National AIDS Committee (NAC) in Jamaica submitted a position paper to the Ministry of Health asking that legislation be passed to deal with HIV/AIDS, persons infected, and those infected by them.

However, Under the Public Health Act (review) it is believed that the definition of communicable disease under Section 2 of the Act is sufficiently wide to include HIV/AIDS as a notifiable disease (which is recorded as being notifiable since 1986).

Extensive power is given to the local board under the direction of the Minister to allow for all necessary measures to be taken to investigate and implement strategies to combat the spread of all communicable diseases.

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