Last updated on: 6 July 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Whether Specific law enacted: 
Number of people prosecuted: 
Number of people convicted: 
Applicable law: 

Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act of 1997 - Sections 4 and 13

  • This is a not an HIV-specific law.
  • It is unclear whether it could be used to cover exposure as well as transmission.
  • Punishable sentences range from a fine through to life imprisonment (or both).

Please read the 'Discussion' section below as the use of this legislation in the context of HIV remains theoretical at the time of writing according to our 2008 correspondent


Key wording in the law: 

Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act of 1997

Section 4

1) A person who intentionally or recklessly causes serious harm to another shall be guilty of an offence.

2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for life or to both.

Section 13

A person shall be guilty of an offence who intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious harm to another. A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable

(a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to both.


From the responses received, it would appear that there are no known prosecutions for the transmission of HIV (or exposure to it) in Ireland.  Consequently we have been informed that there are no specific laws that criminalise it.  However, in the absence of any prosecutions citing any breach of the penal code, we have decided to repeat the above 'all encompassing' laws that we learned of in previous scans.

Furthermore, discussions are currently taking place at national level about:

  • the risks of non-disclosure of HIV status,
  • the public health arguments for making HIV a notifiable disease, and the possible inclusion of partner notification.
  • Notwithstanding this we are told that the debate is sensitive to the fact that HIV remains stigmatised and consideration is being given to the difficulties that HIV-positive people may face in disclosing their HIV status.

In addition, there is a desire to address the situation of “reckless transmission” by the formulation of guidelines for best practice.  These discussions are taking place within the multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary context of the National AIDS Strategy Committee.

Transmission of other sexually transmitted infections is subject to prosecution.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

The Sexual Health Centre, Cork, Ireland.

The Sexual Health Centre has been involved in the wide field of AIDS & Sexual Health since 1987; its website contains links to many other organisations, some of whom may have a more direct interest the criminal transmission of HIV. Their website can be found at:

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.

Neither a medical certificate nor 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 carried for personal use.

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: