Under current legislation, a person with HIV risks spending one to ten years in jail on assault charges if he or she knowingly has unprotected sex with another person.
“The criminalization of HIV makes preventive work more difficult. Also, sentences are very tough,” Ragnar Norrby, director-general of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI), told newspaper Dagens Medicin.
In a reversal of its previous policy, the disease control institute has recently refused to cooperate with prosecutors who requested information on a person suspected of spreading HIV.
“It is now our view that spreading HIV should not be classified as an offence,” Jan Albert, SMI head physician and regional manager, told Dagens Medicin.
“It is at least as much the responsibility of the individual person to understand that unprotected sex involves risks,” he added.
According to Ragnar Norrby, the threat of prosecution leads many people infected with HIV to remain anonymous, making it more difficult to trace the spread of the virus.
SMI also notes that the development of antiretroviral drugs has meant that HIV can no longer be equated to a death sentence.