Sigma Research

Homosexually active men’s views on criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission are related to HIV prevention need

AIDS Care, 2008, 20(5):509-514 (doi:10.1080/09540120701867131).

Authors: Catherine Dodds, Gary Hammond, Peter Weatherburn, Ford Hickson, Peter Keogh, David Reid, Laurie Henderson, Kathie Jessup


There has been much debate and discussion about the potential public health impact of the emergence of criminal prosecutions for the sexual transmission of HIV in the United Kingdom. This paper offers a unique opportunity to examine data that connects views on criminal prosecutions with evidence of HIV prevention need among an opportunistic sample of men in the UK who are homosexually active. Quantitative and qualitative data on criminal prosecutions were collected as a part of the Gay Men's Sex Survey 2006, and this paper represents an initial analysis of those responses. The data demonstrate how dominant views on criminal prosecutions come into direct conflict with health promotion aims, thereby exacerbating pre-existing HIV prevention need in a population at increased risk of participating in HIV transmission. This conflict is most clearly apparent in the close relationship between men's support of criminal prosecutions, and their expectation that a partner with diagnosed HIV will disclose his status before engaging in sex. Changing such unrealistic and universalised expectations has long been an aim of HIV prevention planning that targets gay and bisexual men, yet it would appear that the popularity of criminal prosecutions helps to resist attitudinal change, thereby exacerbating HIV prevention need.


HIV, criminal law, gay men, responsibility, risk.

Available online