Criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission

NAT has consistently opposed prosecutions for reckless HIV transmission.

What's New

NAT continues to work with the relevant bodies to develop and review guidance for police and prosecutors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in Scotland.  We monitor cases closely and work with lawyers and HIV service providers to challenge inappropriate investigations and media reports.  You can contact NAT about a case at 020 7814 6767 or email  


Since 2001 there have been prosecutions for the reckless transmission of HIV in the UK. These prosecutions undermine efforts to stop the spread of HIV and increase stigma.  Prosecutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can only happen if HIV is transmitted.  In Scotland prosecutions are made on different legal grounds and there have been convictions for exposure of sexual partners to HIV, even when no transmission occurred. 

NAT and The Association of Police Officers (ACPO) have agreed Investigation Guidance for these cases. Police action should be:  

• Consistent with CPS prosecution policy,
• Appropriately informed about HIV from both a clinical and a social perspective,
• Respectful of human rights and confidentiality, and
• Which does not prolong an investigation longer than necessary.

Forensic evidence used to back-up HIV transmission cases is difficult to interpret.  Claims that ‘phylogenetic analysis’ can prove direction of transmission have been challenged as unfounded by experts.  Our HIV Forensics briefing paper has information on how phylogenetics should and should not be used.

'RITA tests' are used to assess how recent an HIV infection was.  These tests could be misused in criminal proceedings to prove responsibility for infection - they don’t provide the necessary degree of certainty at an individual level.  HIV Forensics II: Estimating the likelihood of recent HIV infection - Implications for criminal prosecutions outlines the issues.  

Further reading

Key ACPO Guidance documents

  • Police Investigation flowchart: This flowchart sets out the overall investigative process for police once an allegation is made.
  • HIV Key facts
  • Accused under 18?: This document alerts police officers of the requirement to have special consideration of their process where the accused is under 18.
  • Communication Strategy:  guidance to police officers on communication around investigations.  It deals with issues of confidentiality and media relations.
  • Evidential Flowchart:  sets out the evidential steps in any investigation which will limit unnecessary intrusion and ensure appropriate collection of evidence.  
  • Initial contact via GUM clinics:  where third parties emerge during investigation whose HIV status is of interest to the police, contact should be made by a GUM clinic rather than by the police.

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