… BONELA warns as cases of willful HIV transmission rise
Over the last two years, Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) has observed a disturbing and rising trend of issues related to willful infection of sexual partners with HIV. The trend has increased and on a weekly basis an average of three cases is reported. This was revealed by BONELA legal advisor, Keikantse E. Phele.
Willful transmission is the intentional and deliberate spreading of an infectious disease to another person. In this case HIV cases are rampant. The most common way of transmission is by engaging in unprotected sex. In many cases partners do not do couple testing and indulge in unprotected sex without insisting on knowing each other status. On the other hand others mislead their partners that they are HIV negative.
“This is a serious threat to achieving zero new infections by 2016; we therefore encourage people to insist on safer sex if they do not know the status of their partners. This is a worrying trend which projects a sad reality for our nation” advised Cindy Kelemi, BONELA Director.
Through consultations and mediation conducted by BONELA, the perpetrators expressed fear that disclosure of HIV positive status will result in stigmatization and or rejection.
The Legal Advisor further observed that although these cases are on the rise they are always difficult to prove since there is no evidence in most cases. ‘Most people we have assisted do not have a testing history which makes it difficult to proceed with legal assistance’, said Phele.
Most victims of willful infection are women of ages 20-55 years old. Men have the least reported cases but for those reported they range from ages between 25-35 years old. Women are more vulnerable to such incidences therefore there is need to empower them to make informed decisions about safer sex.
Phele, further advised that in order to make a valid legal claim of willful transmission, the complainant should provide the following:
1. Have a reasonable and or direct evidence that the perpetrator knew about their HIV status
2. Evidence of a consistent testing history
3. Report the matter to the nearest police at the earliest as it is a criminal offence to willfully infect another person with HIV.
4. One needs in all the above to have evidence so that it can be established that in all reasonable circumstances they have been willfully infected by the perpetrator.
There is urgent need for stakeholders to raise public awareness about willful transmission while addressing issues relating to stigma and discrimination. We therefore appeal to the Government of Botswana to provide funding to NGO’s so that relevant stakeholders would raise awareness about these issues. There can never be justification for anyone to willingly infect others with HIV.