Last updated on: 4 April 2016

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Whether Specific law enacted: 
Number of people prosecuted: 
At least 20
Number of people convicted: 
At least 15
Applicable law: 
French Penal Code: Articles 221-5, 222-15, 223-1 and 223-6.
Atteinte volontaire a l’integrite physique d’une personne, empoisonnement.
  • This is not an HIV-specific law.
  • Both exposure and transmission can be prosecuted.
  • Punishable sentences range from 1 year imprisonment plus a €150,000 fine through to life imprisonment.
Key wording in the law: 

Poisoning: 221-5

To make an attempt on somebody's life by using or giving any product which can lead to death is a poisoning. Poisoning is sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. It is sentenced to life imprisonment when committed under the circumstances established in articles 221-2, 221-3 and 221-4. The first two paragraphs of article 132-23 related to minimum sentencing apply to the offence established in this article.

Administration of dangerous substances: 222-15

Giving prejudicial substances which impair someone's physical or psychical integrity is sentenced to penalties as mentioned in articles 222-7 to 222-14 according to the differences provided for in these articles. The first two paragraphs of article 132-23 related to minimum sentencing apply to the offence in the same way as of those established in those articles.

Bodily harm: 223-1

Exposing directly somebody to immediate death risk or injuries which would lead to disability or severe handicap resulting from a deliberate breach of a specific safety or caution rule dictated by law is sentenced to a year of imprisonment and a €150,000 fine.

Refusal to assist a person exposed to danger: 223-6

Whoever, through an immediate and risk free action, can prevent a crime or an infraction against somebody's physical integrity refrains from doing so, is sentenced to five years of imprisonment and a €75,000 fine. The same sentence will apply to whoever refrains from helping someone in peril, when there is no risk neither for him/herself nor for a third person, and when he/she could have helped by acting directly or seeking for help.

Key Cases: 

Undiagnosed criminal liability:  In February 2012, the criminal court of Draguignan found a 39 year-old gay man criminal liable for infecting two former partners in 2003 and 2005, even though he did not take an HIV test until 2007. He was sentenced to two years in prison, one year of which was suspended, with a further three years' probation. Having already served his sentence whilst on remand, he was freed after the hearing but will have to wear an electronic bracelet for a year.  More details at Criminal HIV Transmission.

Criminal liability for infecting partner and infant: In November 2009, a 31 year-old man from Perpignan was found guilty of "transmission of a harmful substance causing permanent disability" for infecting not only two women - his ex-partner, and his current partner – but also the child of his ex-partner. He was sentenced to five years in prison, although 3½ years of the sentence is suspended. He will also have to pay compensation of about 50,000 euros. More details at Criminal HIV Transmission.


It appears that exposing another person to the risk of HIV transmission can be subject to prosecution and treated in the same manner as actual transmission, however,  So far, only cases involving multiple complainants where at least one alleged transmission has been considered by the courts have also taken into account HIV exposure claims.  Exposure to the risk of HIV transmission alone has so not led to a conviction.

Civil law has considered in some cases that the "victims" were eligible to receive monetary compensation from the person who contaminated (infected)  them.  This is based on Article 1382 from the Civil Code which can be summarized as saying : Any action by a person that causes a harm to other must lead the initiator of the harm to repair the damage that was done.  French courts have estimated that the "adequate" compensation for contamination (infection) with HIV adds up to approximately 200.000 Euros. When financial compensations are decided by penal courts, and the perpetrator is not financially solvent, the compensation is paid by a "special fund for victims". This is not applicable for compensation decided by civil-law courts.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 
Further reading: 

Latest cases and news can be found via:


A further case from November 2011 can be found here:

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 people with HIV/AIDS. No HIV test result is required when entering the country. A known HIV infection will not lead to deportation or the termination of a person's stay. 

Antiretroviral medication for personal use can be carried. The traveller should carry a medical attestation to prove that he is not a narcotics dealer. 

For updated information, please go to:

Laws relating to same sex, sexual relations: 

Male to Male relationships: Legal

Punishments for male to male relationships:  No law

Female to Female Relationships: Legal

Age of consent:  Equal for heterosexuals and homosexuals

Marriage and Substitutes for Marriage: Inferior substitute but nationally recognized

For updated information, please go to: