Transmitting an STI and the law

On May 8 2014 the UK Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of David Golding against a 14 month prison sentence for transmitting herpes to his partner.

An Editorial in the BMJ by Emily Clarke an colleagues highlights the numerous and  complicated issues that arise from this verdict including:

what constitutes grievous bodily harm,

how you determine that sexual transmission has occurred,

how serious is herpes infection, and

what this judgement means both for health care workers who advise and inform patients on the risks of transmission and on the infected individual and their duty of informing all partners of potential risk of transmitting an infection even during asymptomatic shedding.

The Editorial correctly highlights the dangers of criminalizing sexually transmitted infections and the various problems that arise from this judgement which was based on a law passed 170 years ago addressing totally unrelated issues and at a time when STI’s were not understood as they are today.

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