Answer to a question from a reader

My boyfriend accuses me of infecting him with HIV. Can I go to prison?

The short answer

No, you can not go to prison for transmitting HIV to someone.

The whole question

I found out I have HIV. Now the guy that gave it to me claims I gave it to him. He is threatening to open a case against me. I am scared I may go to prison because he says he does not have it.

The long answer

You have nothing to worry about from your boyfriend's empty threat to lay a charge with the police against you. It's nonsensical.

It's not a crime to transmit HIV unless you do so intentionally (in which case it may be assault - it's not clear - there are no specific laws making it a crime to transmit HIV intentionally).

But almost nobody transmits HIV intentionally and, even if they did, it is almost impossible to prove anyway. Almost all HIV in South Africa is transmitted unintentionally. Whether your boyfriend gave it to you or you gave it to him is not important now. (And if he says he doesn't have HIV, then what is he complaining about?)

What is important is that you need to make sure you go onto antiretroviral treatment, take your medicines daily, and regularly monitor your health. Your local public health clinic should be able to provide this all to you at no charge. If you take your antiretroviral treatment daily on time for life it will hopefully help you live a normal long life and you will be much less likely to transmit HIV to anyone else. Until you are taking antiretroviral treatment and the virus is still detectable in your blood you should use a condom when having sex.

If you need more advice the HIV helpline is 0800 012 322.

Answered on Feb. 24, 2020, 12:41 p.m.

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