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Zimbabwean Activists Urge Tightening of Statute on Knowing HIV Transmission


Activists fought for years for a law that would allow prosecution of knowing transmission of HIV but the absence or scarcity of cutting-edge technology in the country makes it difficult for the state to obtain convictions

The Zimbabwean courts have seen an increasing number of cases in which former lovers bring charges against each other charging that the ex-partner knowingly and willfully transmitted the virus that causes AIDS, a crime under Zimbabwean law punishable by 20 years in prison.

The most prominent case in recent memory involves Insiza South Member of Parliament Siyabonga Malandu Ncube, who was accused by Bulawayo-based journalist Simiso Mlevu of passing on HIV when they were on intimate terms. The state's case recently received a setback when a High Court judge said Malandu could not be compelled to be tested for HIV.

Malandu has denied transmitting the virus and has said he is HIV-negative.

Activists fought for years for a law that would allow prosecution of willful transmission but the absence or scarcity of cutting-edge technology in the country makes it difficult for the state to prove willful transmission, so there have been no convictions based on the 2007 statute.

Human rights lawyer Kucaca Phulu says Section 79 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act criminalizes deliberate or negligent transmission of HIV – but the legislation needs to be fine-tuned to better protect victims.

US-based HIV/AIDS and public health consultant Frenk Guni, a Zimbabwean, said people must not be complacent hoping their partners will not infect them for fear of the law.

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