Since 2001, people living with HIV in the UK have been prosecuted for the reckless transmission of HIV. There are real concerns that these prosecutions are undermining efforts to stop the spread of HIV in the UK and are increasing stigma around HIV.
The National AIDS Trust are campaigning for an end to prosecutions of reckless transmission of HIV through consensual sex. This is because of the need to affirm the individual’s responsibility for his or her own sexual health; the human rights of those people living with HIV and the difficulties of disclosure; the public health considerations and the potential for further discrimination against people living with HIV and disadvantaged groups such as migrants.
Whilst prosecutions continue, they are working to ensure that the best possible guidance is available to prosecutors, lawyers, police, support organisations, healthcare workers, people living with HIV and the organisations which support them.
In a number of countries new tests known as ‘RITA tests’ are being used to assess whether someone diagnosed HIV positive has been recently infected (they are also sometimes known as ‘STARHS tests’ or ‘incidence tests’). In the UK newly diagnosed individuals are also being told the result of this RITA test. There is a danger that these tests are misused in criminal proceedings in an attempt to prove responsibility for infection when in fact they do not provide the necessary degree of certainty or accuracy at an individual level.
NAT has produced a report on RITA tests and criminal prosecution – ‘HIV Forensics II: Estimating the likelihood of recent HIV infection – Implications for criminal prosecutions’. Click here to read the report.
More information on RITA testing can be found on the HPA website.
It is especially important that any patient given a RITA test result is carefully advised that it only gives an approximate indication of recency. The HPA have published a Patient Information Sheet which should also be given to the patient in these circumstances.