HIV positive people who knowingly infect others can be charged with rape, assault, culpable homicide or even murder – but law experts are unlikely to recommend that government introduces HIV-specific laws to punish them.

This was revealed at the world AIDS conference in Durban yesterday by Judge Edwin Cameron, who chairs the SA Law Commission’s sub-committee on HIV/AIDS laws.

Cameron said that most of his committee members believed South Africa’s criminal laws offered citizens enough protection against people who intentionally infected others with HIV.

For example, if an HIV positive person did not tell their partner they were HIV positive and did not use condoms, their partner could charge them with rape as they could argue that they did not give consent to sex under such conditions, he said.

“About 90% of HIV positive South Africans are undiagnosed,” said Cameron.

“Most of those diagnosed are black women who were tested in pregnancy.

Many were too afraid to tell their husbands. So poor black women would bear the brunt of HIV-specific laws.”

In addition, a law targeting HIV positive people could further isolate and stigmatise them, he said.

The report, which will be handed to the SALC next month, has to go to Parliament which may still reject its findings.

 Debating against Cameron, Indian lawyer Anand Grover argued that people should be prosecuted for “knowingly infecting others, failing to use condoms, and failing to disclose that they are HIV positive.”

“If these were made legal offences, I believe that this would affect transmission,” said Grover. – Health-e News