Is there a case for criminalising vertical transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from mother to child?

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Abstract

Vertical transmission of HIV is transmission of the virus from an HIV infected woman to her foetus during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Recklessly transmitting HIV to another person via sexual contact is now considered to be a criminal offence in many jurisdictions and the wording of such criminal sanctions is such that it may well be possible to extend such prosecutions to vertical transmission of HIV. While there have been no attempts, thus far, to extend these criminal sanctions in this way, there have and continue to be attempts to compel pregnant women to act to protect their future children from harm and thus criminalisation of vertical transmission of HIV may well be considered. This article asks the question: 'Is it appropriate to allow the criminalisation of reckless vertical transmission of HIV?' I argue that any projected benefits of criminalisation of vertical transmission are at best tentative and the undesirable consequences of such a move are clear and may be disastrous for the rights of women.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Law and Ethics
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013

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