People often make assumptions about who infected them with HIV or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). This is usually based on the idea that the person who tested positive first was the person who was actually infected first.
This is not necessarily the case. Sometimes, the person who complains to the police after recently testing as HIV positive turns out to have infected the person they are accusing. So it is important to be sure before making any allegations.
It is possible that the person making the complaint (‘the complainant’) was infected either by the person they’re accusing or by someone else. They also might have been infected in another way (for example, when sharing drug injecting equipment or during a blood transfusion in a foreign country) months or even years before they met the person they are accusing.
With something like herpes, many people carry the virus without ever knowing it.
If your sexual history or testing history shows that you have had sex with a number of other partners, it is likely that they will all have to be eliminated as suspects before a case can proceed.
The police should make all these investigations before referring the case to prosecutors. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for England and Wales will not bring a case where this work has not been done by police.
Complex scientific tests - known as 'phylogenetic analysis' - should always be done in HIV cases to compare the viruses of the complainant and the accused. If the two viruses are different, then this proves that there was no HIV transmission between the two people.
If the viruses appear to be similar it means that HIV transmission from the accused to the complainant could have taken place, but it does not prove it ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
It is still possible that it was in fact the complainant who had transmitted HIV to the accused - or that both were infected by people sharing the same type of virus - or by the same person.
This is particularly likely in cases where people within the same social circles have all had sex with each other.
If you need help with matters concerning HIV transmission, call our free helpline THT Direct.
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 16/9/2018
Content Author: Daisy Ellis
Current Owner: Policy
Policing Transmission, Terrence Higgins Trust & NAT (2008)
Intentional or Reckless Sexual Transmission of Infection by the Crown Prosecution Service
Policy for prosecuting cases involving the intentional or reckless sexual transmission of infection by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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