Last updated on: 3 September 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

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

Penal Code Act (Vol 7 ch 87)

Public Health Act of Zambia (CAP 295): section 59: wilful or culpable negligent infection with venereal disease

Key wording in the law: 

Penal Code Act (Vol 7 ch 87)

Negligent Act likely to cause infection:

183. Any person who unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, is guilty of a misdemeanour.


From the information received from Zambia AIDS Law Research & Advocacy Network [ZARAN] it appears that no one has yet been convicted for transmitting HIV to another person.

However, ZARAN reported that a few cases of defilement or rape where the defendant also transmitted HIV resulted in the defendant’s sentence being aggravated.

The wording of the law specifically mentions negligent transmission; nothing is mentioned of deliberate transmission.

The Law is not specific to HIV, transmission of ‘any disease dangerous to life’ is punishable.  Again, ZARAN point out that no one has been charged for transmitting any other disease.

According to ZARAN, while there is no specific HIV transmission law, common law can be used albeit only if they were amended. Murder requires the death within 1 year so in practice it probably wouldn’t be used, but in theory it is there. The most likely provisions of Zambia law that apply are Section 183 of the Penal Code (Negligent Act Likely to Spread Infection) and Section 59 of Public Health Act, which mentions venereal disease and not HIV specifically.  What we also find is that courts use a sexual offender’s positive HIV status as aggravating factor in justifying a higher sentence. However, no specific transmission cases have come about.

In order to provide specific guidance to Members of Parliament, Ministers, Ministries of Health/HIV of SADC countries on the complex process of HIV legisla­tion, the SADC Parliamentary Forum, a consultative and advisory intergovernmental organization of national Parliaments in  SADC countries, with the technical assistance of the AIDS and Human Rights Research Unit and the involvement of vari­ous stakeholders and regional civil society groups, has developed a model law on HIV to serve that purpose. The Model Law integrates the protection of human rights as a key element of an effective response to HIV. The Model Law has no provisions allowing criminalisation.

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 


Legal Officer: Chipo Mushota

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 living with HIV and 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 for personal use can be imported. A prescription must be carried.

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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: