Liberia

Last updated on: 7 July 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

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

Act to amend the public health law, Title 33, Liberian code of laws revised (1976)

Key wording in the law: 

Chapter 18 providing for the Control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Section 18.27 Wilful transmission of HIV

(a) It shall be considered a crime for any person(s) to wilfully transmit HIV to another person or to continue to have unprotected sex with his/her spouse or sexual partner knowing the positive result of his/her HIV test or status.

(b) No person shall be criminally responsible under this Act or any other applicable law where the transmission of HIV, or exposure to the risk of HIV infection, arises out of or relates to:

I. An act that poses no significant risk of HIV infection;

II. A person living with HIV who was unaware of his or her HIV infection at the time of the alleged offence;

III. A person (...) who lacked understanding of how HIV is transmitted at the time of the alleged offence;

IV. A person (...) who practiced safer sex, including using a condom;

V. A person who disclosed his or her HIV status to the sexual partner or other person before any act posing a significant risk of transmission;

VI. A situation in which the sexual partner or other person was in some other way aware of the person's HIV -positive status;

VII. A person living with HIV who did not disclose his or her HIV status because of a well-founded fear of serious harm by the other person; or

VIII. The possibility of transmission of HIV from a woman to her child before or during the birth of the child or through breastfeeding of an infant or child.

Discussion: 

From the information received from the Liberian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, no one has yet been prosecuted for transmitting HIV. An act to amend the public health law, title 33, to provide for the control of HIV has been enacted.

According to the Liberia Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS civil society and UNAIDS worked with the legislators to ensure that human rights were at the centre of the legislation. As such section 18.27 (b) lists a number of situations in which criminal liability would not arise including, where a condom was used, where HIV - positive status was disclosed or where the virus was transmitted from mother to child.

However, Article 18.27 (a) which defines the crime does so in quite vague terms: ‘It shall be considered a crime for any person(s) to wilfully transmit HIV', it does not define what constitutes a ‘wilful act'. There is also a duty placed on people living with HIV to refrain from having unprotected sex.

The Act also stresses the confidentiality of people living with HIV. The Act which has been sent to the Senate for concurrence stipulates that it is unlawful for any person to disclose to a third party the result of an individual's HIV test without the prior consent of that individual. It is also unlawful for medical or other support staff in health facilities, recruitment agencies, insurance companies, computer operators or any person who have access to patient medical records or results of anyone infested with the disease to disclose such information, the Act further stipulates. According to the Act, violation of the provisions of confidentially herein shall be punishable by a fine of not less than L$1,000 to be imposed by the Ministry of Health as well as the suspension and revocation of the person's professional license or operating permit for a period of not less than one year.

Several newspapers discuss the legislation process in Liberia.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

AIDSCORPS, Hh.K. Zaizay, Monrovia, Liberia, +231 6557278, zaizayhh@gmail.com

Liberia Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, +231 6539947 

Liberia Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, PO Box 20-5472, 1000 Monrovia, Liberia, +231 6539947, Stephen McGill : smcgill_sail@yahoo.com

UNAIDS Coordinating Office and Representative: Alamosa Barr

Further reading: 

In September 2004 AWARE-HIV/AIDS held a regional workshop to adopt a "model law" on HIV/AIDS in N'Djamena (Chad). Activist have protested against this model law as it showed different problematic features. The amended legislation in Liberia is a response to this bill.

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (2007). A human rights analysis of the N'Djamena model legislation on AIDS and HIV-specific legislation in Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

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

According to our research, there are no legal or other regulations limiting the entry of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Travellers are required to carry evidence of a yellow fever vaccination.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV and AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Liberia.

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

Laws relating to same sex, sexual relations: 

Male to Male relationships: Not Legal

Female to Female Relationships: Not Legal

Marriage and Substitutes for Marriage: No law

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

Laws relating to injecting drug use: 

Yes