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Liberia: House Passes Law on HIV Privacy, Prevention

(Sept. 10, 2008) On September 2, 2008, the Liberian House of Representatives, part of the bicameral legislature, passed the Anti HIV/AIDS Law, designed to protect the privacy of individuals living with HIV/AIDS and prevent the spread of the disease. The Act makes it illegal for any individual to divulge to a third party the results of HIV tests without the authorization of the subjects of those tests. The Act also specifically prohibits individuals who access medical records due to the nature of their employment from disclosing such information. It mandates that the Ministry of Health impose a minimum of an L$1,000 (about US$15.70) penalty and revocation or suspension of the wrongdoer's professional license or permit for at least one year for violation of these rules. In addition, the Act gives the person victimized by a breach the right to file a civil lawsuit.

The Act makes infecting a person with HIV due to “clumsiness, negligence, carelessness or recklessness” while carrying out professional duties a crime punishable under the Penal Law of Liberia. It gives the Ministry of Health the authority to impose a minimum of an L$10,000 (about US$157) fine on a hospital, clinic, or other institution to which the offence is attributable. In addition, the Act gives the infected person the right to institute a civil action.

The Act also makes it a crime for an infected person to knowingly transmit HIV to another person or to continue to have unprotected sex after having learned of positive HIV status. The Act has been sent to the Senate for a vote; if passed, it will have to be approved by the Liberian President before it is published into law. (New AIDS Law Calls for Confidentiality, THE NEWS, Sept. 4, 2008, available at