Intentional, deliberate, willful transmission of HIV
In many countries, the intentional infection of a person with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is considered to be a crime.
This is often conflated, in laws and in discussion, with criminal exposure to HIV, which does not require the transmission of the virus and often, as in the cases of spitting and biting, does not include a realistic means of transmission.
Some countries or jurisdictions have enacted laws expressly to criminalize HIV transmission or exposure, charging those accused with criminal transmission of HIV. Others charge the accused under existing laws with such crimes as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, or assault.
In most countries, the intentional (or deliberate or willful) transmission of HIV is considered the most serious form of criminal transmission. Some cases have involved individuals (both HIV positive and HIV negative) who have used needles or other implements to intentionally infect others with HIV. Others have been based on HIV positive people who have had sex with the primary intent of transmitting the virus to their partner.
HIV in Southern Africa
The Southern Africa sub-region, in particular, experiences the most severe HIV epidemics in the world. Nine countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have adult HIV prevalence rates of over 10 per cent.
In the past 10 years, efforts to halt the spread of the epidemic by national governments and development partners have borne fruits: new infections among adults have decreased by more than 50 per cent in Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Achieving an AIDS-free generation is the goal of world leaders and eradicating HIV and AIDS will see more funds channeled to developmental projects. World leaders identified combating the spread of HIV as a priority and made it Millennium Development Goal Number 6.
With all the efforts made by national governments and development partners to prevent new HIV infections, one would question why top government officials in Zimbabwe are deliberately peddling this epidemic and nothing is being done.
In 2011 during a conference on HIV and AIDS, President Robert Mugabe said that the fight against the spread of HIV was hampered by “indiscipline” among men – including promiscuous government ministers and senior officials. Mugabe said that he had witnessed unnamed top government officials known to be on HIV drugs “running from one woman to the other”.
“I know of cases of men, who even though they are taking ARVs are running from one woman to the other,” Mugabe told a conference in Harare held under the theme ‘Elimination of New HIV Infections in Children, Keeping Mothers Alive’.
One such notorious government official known for intentionally spreading HIV is Bradah Sylvester Maunganidze, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.
While at the Ministry of Tourism, he was reported to openly boast among his friends that he was Zimbabwe’s Best Sugar Daddy in addition to ‘relieving’ himself unprotected on secondary school girls. He was later relieved of his duties as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for trivializing the prestigious UNWTO after making comments that reduced the event to a “sex expo”.
Maunganidze had asked parliament to legalize prostitution ahead of the event saying that the delegates would become angry if prostitutes were not made available to them at the Victoria Falls.”
Email from someone who knew Maunganidze
“It is good that there are journalists willing to do this story. I met Maunganidze in 2007 and I never liked him from what I saw after the event we attended together. From my close association with the person that invited me, I was privileged to notice a level of terrible behavior against young innocent girls. I also attended an event in one of the towns in Zimbabwe where it was apparent that violation against girls was a game these old men were fond of. He is evil appearing to be in sheep’s clothing and an honorable husband or family man. And these men can kill no wonder why the victims have dug themselves in deep holes despite being so grossly violated. I can only request that whoever is doing the story to please extend an olive branch to the many girls abused by this man. I have a doctor friend in another town there who is great with HIV Management and Treatment. If I talk to him, we can refer all the girls to him for tests, counseling and treatment. I will pay him myself. And that is how much i could offer at this moment”
What does the law in Zimbabwe say about deliberate HIV spreading?
In Zimbabwe, the willful transmission act protects those who willfully transmit HIV. HIV/AIDS groups in the country have been advocating for its revisiting.
Despite the progress in HIV prevention, there are still 17.1 million adults and children living with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa, and the figure continues to increase as antiretroviral therapy (ART) ensures millions of people with HIV can now live a healthy life. Moreover, most people on ART start treatment late, limiting the overall impact of antiretroviral medicines.
For many people living with HIV, such treatment remains out of reach, especially for those living in rural areas, and those fearful of stigma and discrimination if they are tested positive.
In a sad twist, in early April 2014, the Harare administration ordered HIV/AIDS patients on medical aid to buy their own ARV’s as figures of those needing state assistance was swelling. With the cutting of treatment by the government, one can only hope that tighter laws are put into place to hold those who deliberately spread HIV accountable, most especially so-called leaders.