Criminalization of HIV Transmission

In the last 30 years, HIV has become an international pandemic. Exacerbating the crisis is a trend of transforming HIV from a public health problem to a criminal justice issue.

The medical reality is that HIV is difficult to transmit, that precautions effectively reduce transmission risk, and that with access to treatment, HIV is a chronic, manageable condition, not a death sentence.

In the United States, criminal law has been used to target people with HIV. Thirty-four states have statutes criminalizing perceived exposure to HIV. Prosecutions have involved allegations of non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission of HIV. The legal standards in HIV criminalization cases involve degrees of intent, harm, and proportion.

Pennsylvania does not have a specific law criminalizing HIV transmission, but the Pennsylvania Crimes Code contains a few provisions that have been used to prosecute people based on their HIV status.

Click on this link for a brief memo outlining criminal responses to HIV in Pennsylvania.

Credit: The Center for HIV Law & Policy |