Last updated on: 3 May 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Whether Specific law enacted: 
Number of people prosecuted: 
Number of people convicted: 
Key wording in the law: 

Penal Code 1981 (s 107) Intentional Assault; (s 108) Unintentional Harm

Key Cases: 



Section 107 Intentional Assault

No person shall commit intentional assault on the body of another person.


(a) if no physical damage is caused, imprisonment for 3 months;

(b) if damage of a temporary nature is caused, impisonment for 1 year;

(c) if damage of a permanent nature is caused, imprisonment for 5 years;

(d) if the damage caused results in death, although the offender did not intend to cause such death, imprisonment for 10 years.

Section 108 Unintentional Harm

No person shall unintentionally cause damage to the body of another person, through recklessness or negligence, or failure to observe any law.


(a) if the damage so caused is purely temporary, imprisonment for 3 months;

(b) if the damage so caused is permanent, imprisonment for 2 years;

(c) if the damage so caused results in death, imprisonment for 5 years.

The offences of intentional and unintentional harm causing permanent damage under the Penal Code are sufficient for prosecuting an offence of wilful transmission. In each of these offences, the damage caused is of a permanent nature, and death may already have resulted by the time the charge is brought. The year-and-a-day rule is found at S.111.

A 2009 Journal of South Pacific Law article[1] noted that Vanuatu still has no legally enforceable Public Health Act; though two attempts had been made to pass Public Health Acts.

The Public Health Act of 1994 made reference to HIV/AIDS by including it in the definition of notifiable diseases in schedule 1. Article 11,which deals with notifiable diseases provides for compulsory testing on any person suspected with the disease. Similarly, Article 13 provides for infected people to notify owners of premises such as shops and buses of their notifiable disease status before entering these premises or vehicles. Only parts of this Act have ever been gazetted, however, and the sections relating to notifiable diseases have yet to come into force.

A draft Public Health Act 2000 made specific reference to HIV, especially Sections 13 to 23, including a duty for a HIV-positive person to inform sexual partner of her or his HIV status.  However, due to lack of political support the Bill has not been passed by Parliament.

[1]Mae P (2009). Medical Confidentiality and the Public Disclosure of HIV Status. Journal of South Pacific Law, Vol 13, Issue 1.

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

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

No known restrictions.

The Government of Vanuatu does not impose any entry restrictions for persons with the HIV/AIDS virus, as long as they include the information on the arrival form.

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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: No law

For updated information, please go to: