Claiming that it wants to prevent HIV transmission, Sweden legally requires HIV-positive people to reveal their status to their partners before having sex. Even if the virus is not transferred, failure to disclose could result in criminal prosecution on charges of aggravated assault. Moreover, Swedes living with HIV do not have the legal right to have unprotected sex, even consensually – since this constitutes aggravated assault in Swedish law, and one cannot consent to assault.
Though Sweden of course is not the only nation with anti-HIV laws, it enforces them ruthlessly. Agence France-Presse reports: “According to the 2010 Global Criminalization Scan Report, published by the Global Network of People Living with HIV, Sweden has the highest rate of HIV-related convictions in the world, with 6.12 sentences per 1,000 people living with the virus, 60 times more than France and 24 times more than the United States.”
According to UNICEF, Sweden has an estimated 9,000 people living with HIV, one of the smallest such populations in the world. Law-enforcement supporters say this demonstrates the effectiveness of the laws. The possibility exists, however, that Sweden’s treatment of all those with HIV as potential criminals discourages many from being tested, so that the actual numbers are much higher.
Not all Swedes are in favor of these laws. A Swedish appeals court recently reversed the conviction of an HIV-positive man whose crime was having unprotected sex with four women. Although the women did not contract the virus – and although current drug treatments make HIV transmission unlikely – in November 2013 Sweden’s top prosecutor appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Agence France-Presse, “Sweden Divided over Requiring HIV-Positive People to Inform Partners before Sex,” The Raw Story, November 29, 2013, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/29/sweden-divided-over-requiring-hiv-positive-people-to-inform-partners-before-sex/.
“At a glance: Sweden,” UNICEF, Accessed December 15, 2013, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sweden_statistics.html.
Student Researcher: Dejah McCrimmon (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)