Bolivia (Plurinational State of)

Last updated on: 6 February 2014

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Bolivia, Plurinational State of
Whether Specific law enacted: 
Number of people prosecuted: 
Number of people convicted: 
1 (A female sex worker living with HIV was sentenced to house arrest for continuing to work as a sex worker).
Applicable law: 

Book II - Special Part - Title V - Chapter III - Crimes against Public Health
Article 216 - Spread contagious or severe diseases
Article 219 - Penalty in case of death or mortal danger
Article 220 - Guilt forms

Key wording in the law: 

Book II - Special Part - Title V - Chapter III - Crimes against Public Health
Article 216 - Spread contagious or severe diseases
Art. 216 - (OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC HEALTH) - Shall be liable to imprisonment of one to ten years, anyone who:
1. Spreads contagious or severe diseases resulting in epidemics.
2. Poisons, contaminates or alters water intended for public consumption or industrial, agricultural and fish farming use.
3. Poisons, contaminates or alters medicinal substances and food products.
4. Commercializes substances harmful to health or drinks and food products proved unfit for consumption.
5. Commits acts contrary to provisions on hygiene and health or alters medical prescriptions
6. Causes shortages or price rises of food products, medicines, to the detriment of public health.
7. Breaches health measures or spreads animal or vegetal diseases.
8. Administrates or supplies of drugs or medicinal substances in kind, quality, quantity not corresponding to the medical prescription.
9. Takes any other action which in any way could affect the health of the population.
10. Transmits or attempts to transmit HIV to know who lives with this condition.
Article 219 - If cause death or mortal danger
Article 219 - (COMMON DISPOSITIONS) - In either case of the three previous chapters, the penalty shall be increased:
1. In one quarter, in case of mortal danger to someone.
2. At third, if the act is the immediate cause of death or serious injury to any person.
Article 220 - Guilt forms
Article 220 - (GUILT) - When any of the above facts is committed by guilt, shall be imposed imprisonment of six months to two years, if not proves to illness or death of any person, and imprisonment increased by half, if it is illness or death.

Original Spanish Version
Libro II - Parte Especial - Título V - Capítulo III - Delitos contra la Salud Pública
Artículo 216 - Propagación de enfermedad contagiosa o severa
Artículo 216 - (DELITOS CONTRA LA SALUD PUBLICA). Incurrirá en privación de libertad de uno a diez años, el que:
1. Propagare enfermedades graves o contagiosas u ocasionare epidemias.
2. Envenenare, contaminare o adulterare aguas destinadas al consumo público o al uso industrial, agropecuario y piscícola.
3. Envenenare, contaminare o adulterare substancias medicinales y productos alimenticios.
4. Comerciare con substancias nocivas para la salud o con bebidas y alimentos mandados inutilizar.
5. Cometiere actos contrarios a disposiciones sobre higiene y sanidad o alterare prescripciones médicas
6. Provocare escasez o encarecimiento de artículos alimenticios y medicinales, en perjuicio de la salud pública.
7. Quebrantare medidas de sanidad pecuaria o propagare epizootias y plagas vegetales.
8. Expendiere o suministrare drogas o substancias medicinales en especie, calidad o cantidad no correspondientes a la receta médica.
9. Realizare cualquier otro acto que de una u otra manera afecte la salud de la población.
10. Transmitiere o intentare transmitir el VIH conociendo que vive con esta condición.

Artículo 219 - Penalidad en caso de muerte o peligro mortal
Artículo 219 - (DISPOSICIONES COMUNES).- En cualquiera de los casos de los tres capítulos anteriores, la pena será aumentada:
1. En un cuarto, si hubiere peligro de muerte para alguna persona.
2. En un tercio, si el hecho fuere la causa inmediata de la muerte o lesiones graves de alguna persona.
Artículo 220 - Formas de culpabilidad
Artículo 220 - (FORMAS CULPOSAS).- Cuando alguno de los hechos anteriores fuere cometido por culpa, se impondrá reclusión de seis meses a dos años, si no resultare enfermedad o muerte de alguna persona, y reclusión aumentada en la mitad, si resultare la enfermedad o muerte.

Key Cases: 

Join the campaign against the criminalisation of female sex workers with HIV October 8, 2013. Last month a 25 year-old female sex worker – a mother of two children – who was working in Sucre and Potosí, Bolivia, was sentenced to house arrest because she continued to work after being diagnosed HIV-positive. How, the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Female Sex Workers (RedTraSex), along with other national and regional organisations, is calling on the global community to join a campaign against the criminalisation of female sex workers living with HIV in Bolivia asking the authorities for her immediate release, and the government to respect the Human Rights of sex workers.  

According to the information published in the daily La Razón on 13 September and confirmed by RedTraSex, a female sex worker living with HIV was sentenced to house arrest for continuing to work as a sex worker. See information below in “Facts reported”. RedTraSex repudiates this legal action by Judge Mendizábal, considering it a violation of a sex worker’s human rights, and demands that the ruling be amended and the sex worker be freed immediately. In addition, we demand that the Head of the National Program for HIV/AIDS in Bolivia, Carola Valencia, make a full retraction of her statement in the newspaper La Razón. We demand that the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia guarantee the human rights of female sex workers living with HIV. We further reject any kind of criminalization of key populations (female sex workers, GLTBI population, MSM and drug users) due to HIV transmission.  Source:

  • The numeral 1 of article 216 of Penal Code of Bolivia typified the transmission of any contagious or severe illness.
  • This is not a specific HIV disposition, but definitely could be applicable to any transmission disease.
  • The paragraph 10 addendum by the law 3729 of August 8, 2007 to article 216, expressly punishes anyone who transmits or attempts to transmit HIV to know who lives with this condition.
  • There is no record to date processes followed to any person for violation of paragraph 10 of Article 216 of the Bolivian Penal Code.
  • 3729 Act of August 8, 2007, can not be considered a law criminalizing the transmission although final disposition amending the Criminal Code.
  • Although the 3729 Act of August 8, 2007 introduces an addendum to the Criminal Code, criminalizing HIV transmission and exposure, not less true that in other respects the law is very guarantors of the rights of people with HIV. Preserves equality before the law and non-discrimination against people with HIV. It ensures confidentiality, the right to timely information and education, job protection. Sets the duty of people with HIV to practice responsible sexuality to themselves and others. In contradiction to right to confidentiality, duty to report the serological status to their sexual partners and health personnel.
  • By other side, article 220 criminalizes the HIV exposure, because imposed a penalty still if the passive part of the offense will not result infected.


Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

The sources investigate and surveys respondents indicate they do not know cases they have been a formal prosecution.
They report two cases involving family matters, which allegedly women affected indicated that they had been infected by their husbands. The first case was attended in an NGO defending the rights of women apparently agreement was reached between the parties.
In the second case, the woman filed a complaint with the police and stated he took photos of the man, included their genitals because he had STI, and hung in police files. However, the intervention of the lawyer of Foundation REDVIHDA had managed to removed this files, because was a family matter since the complaint was not criminal. Finally the case didn't went to criminal courts because the aggrieved person was not appeared more.

Number of people living with HIV: UNAIDS/WHO

Acknowledgement: We are grateful to Edgar Carrasco (ex-Director ACCSI-Human Rights Organization, Caracas-Venezuela) who provided the most of the laws that could be potentially used.

Aids Epidemic Update, December 2009. UNAIDS/WHO.
Aids Epidemic Update, Latin America Fact Sheet. December 2009. UNAIDS/WHO
Aids Epidemic Update, Hoja de Datos de Latinoamérica. December 2009. UNAIDS/WHO

Fundación Redvihda

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

Laws and regulations relating to entry, stay or residence in the country: 

There are no specific entry or residence regulations for peopleliving with HIV and AIDS. Neither a medical certificate not an HIV test result is required when entering the country. Foreigners with a known HIV infection are not subject to specific residence regulations. There are no regulations regarding the control, deportation or expulsion of those concerned.
Antiretroviral medication can be imported, but we have no information about allowed quantities.
Local authorities require that tourists get a yellow fever vaccination before travelling to Bolivia if they are coming from infected countries. It is also recommended to get this vaccination when travelling to flood-affected and tropical regions, such as Los Yungas, El Chapare, Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz.

For updated information, please go to: