Guyana

Last updated on: 27 April 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Guyana
Whether Specific law enacted: 
No
Number of people prosecuted: 
NA
Number of people convicted: 
NA
Applicable law: 

Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1894

Section 43 Assault

Everyone who assaults any person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year.

Section 49 Assault causing actual bodily harm

Everyone who assaults any person so as to cause him actual bodily harm shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for five years.

Section 50 Unlawful wounding

Everyone who unlawfully and malicious wounds or inflicts any grievous bodily harm upon a person, whether with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable to imprisonment for five years.

Key wording in the law: 

Section 43 Assault; Section 49 Assault causing actual bodily harm; Section 50 Unlawful wounding

Discussion: 

In September 2011, a Special Select Committee unanimously rejected a bill on the Criminal Responsibility of HIV Infected Individuals proposed by Guyana Action Party parliamentarian Everall Franklin in 2010

According to a news report (attached below) the Committee's Chair, Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said

that the committee agreed that “the willful transmission of HIV is unacceptable and is criminal” but believed that there are general criminal laws that are adequate to address the willful transmission of HV. He added that after hearing the views of individuals and organisations who came before the committee they concluded that criminalisation of HIV transmission has not been proven to prevent the spread of HIV.

“It merely encourages individuals not to get tested and increases the stigma and discrimination against those who are positive,” he added.

This in turn could lead to an increase in the spread of HIV since people would fear to get tested and could pass the virus on. Stigma and discrimination, the minister said have proven to be “the most powerful drivers” of the HIV epidemic.

UNAIDS in the Carribbean congratulated the Government via a press statement 'Guyana gets it right' which noted



“Such a law would have deepened the climate of denial, secrecy and fear surrounding the virus in Guyana and in so doing reduce people’s willingness to learn their status and access treatment and support. Ironically, a measure meant to reduce the spread of HIV could have led to its increase.”

The full Report of the Special Select Committee to the Guyana Parliament is attached below.

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

The Speech of Honourable Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Health, to Parliament, September 8th 2011, on the Committtee's Decision not to create an HIV-specific law is attached below.  He cited international developments led by UNAIDS questioning HIV criminalisation as a major reason for the decision.

As experts on HIV scientists and legal minds meet at the global level, and as countries revoke their earlier broad criminalization of HIV exposure and transmission, we cannot in Guyana go in the opposite direction, and act backwardly as a nation that is proud to be forward looking, progressive and basing its policies and practices on evidence.

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

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

We have no information about the existence of any restrictions affecting entry or stay of people living with HIV/AIDS in Guyana.

Antiretroviral medication can be imported for personal use. A doctor’s prescription should be carried.

For updated information, please go to: www.hivrestrictions.org

Laws relating to same sex, sexual relations: 

Male to Male relationships: Not Legal

Punishments for male to male relationships: Imprisonment of 10 years or more

Female to Female Relationships: Legal

Marriage and Substitutes for Marriage: No law

For updated information, please go to: http://ilga.org