Sierra Leone

Last updated on: 3 September 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

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


Key wording in the law: 


21. (1) A person who is and who is aware of being infected with HIV or is carrying and is aware of carrying the virus shall–

(a) take all reasonable measures and precautions to prevent the transmission of HIV to others and in the case of a pregnant woman, the foetus; and

(b) inform, in advance, any sexual contact or person with whom needles are shared, of that fact.

(2) Any person who is and is aware of being infected with HIV or is carrying and is aware of carrying HIV antibodies shall not knowingly or recklessly place another person, and in the case of a pregnant women, the foetus, at risk of becoming infected with HIV, unless that other person knew that fact and voluntarily accepted the risk of being infected with HIV.

(3) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five million leones or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years or to both the fine and imprisonment.

(4) A person referred to in subsection (1) or (2) may request any medical practitioner or any other person approved by the Minister under section 13, to inform and counsel a sexual partner of the HIV status of the person.

(5) A request under subsection (4) shall be in the prescribed form.

(6) On receipt of a request made under subsection (4), the medical practitioner or approved person shall, whenever possible, comply with the request in person.

(7) A medical practitioner who is responsible for the treatment of a person and who becomes aware that the person has not, after reasonable opportunity to do so–

(a) complied with subsection (1) or (2); or

(b) made a request under subsection (4), may inform any sexual partner of that person, of the HIV status of that person.

(8) Any medical practitioner or approved person who informs a sexual partner as provided in subsection (6) or (7) shall not, by reason only of that action, be in breach of this Act.


From the information gathered, it appears that no one has yet to be prosecuted for transmitting HIV in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone was in the second tier of countries to introduce specific HIV specific legislation following the N’djamena Model Law (see other issues below).

The law in Sierra Leone has received media attention and criticism from Human Rights activists  for the provisions which criminalise not only actual transmission of HIV from mother to child – but makes a criminal of any pregnant woman who knows she has HIV but does not take reasonable measures to prevent transmission to her baby.

The Act also places a duty on medical practitioners to disclose the HIV-status of their patients to partners where the patients have not done so within the reasonable period that is prescribed.

The Legislation in Sierra Leone is in direct response of criminalization legislation in the aftermath of the Action for West Africa Region HIV/AIDS Project (AWARE-HIV/AIDS) meeting in N’djamena, Chad in 200

As part of the meeting, West African parliamentarians drafted what is now known as the N'djamena African Model Law. The law contains some protections, including the guarantee of pre- and post-natal counselling and the right to health care services, but features several troubling provisions. The N'djamena model broadly requires HIV-status disclosure to a "spouse or regular sexual partner" within six weeks of diagnosis and permits mandatory testing of pregnant women, rape victims, and when necessary to "solve a marital dispute."

The N'djamena law also creates the vague offence of wilful transmission pertaining to those who transmit the virus "through any means with full knowledge of their HIV-positive status" - a parameter broad enough to include mother-to-child-transmission. The law does not, however, distinguish between those who intend to do harm and those whose behaviour can be categorized as reckless or negligent, raising particular questions about the culpability of individuals who might not be aware that they are HIV positive.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

Organizations working on HIV and the Law

National HIV/AIDS Secretariat

Brima Kargbo

+232 22 235842/849

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 restrictions affecting entry or stay of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone.

A yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required of travellers arriving from infected areas.

For updated information, please go to:

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:



Protective laws and policies for people living with HIV: