Finland Top Court Overturns Assault Conviction in HIV Case

Blood sample positive with HIV test
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Finland’s Supreme Court has overturned an assault conviction against a man with HIV who had unprotected sex with his partner without informing them he had the disease.

The court ruled on Wednesday that despite the man having unprotected sex with his partner without informing them he had HIV, he was not guilty of a crime. The ruling determined that because he was using antiviral medication, transmission of the virus was unlikely at the time.

An appeals court had initially sentenced the man to two years in prison for attempted aggravated assault in December 2016, with the court ruling he had attempted to harm his partner’s health by having unprotected sex with them, newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reports.

However, the Supreme Court obtained opinions from experts who testified that the likelihood of infection depended on how prevalent the virus was in a person and that anti-viral medicine greatly reduced the presence of the virus and reduced the risk of transmission.

The defendant testified that he had been on antiviral medication for years, but had taken a break from it for several months during the year he had intercourse with his partner. Later tests on the blood of the HIV+ man revealed a low prevalence of the virus, however.

The Finnish supreme court has ruled on several prior cases involving HIV+ people having unprotected sex with others without informing them. In 2017, the court did convict another person of assault who had engaged in unprotected sex with a partner and actually infected them with the virus.

In other countries, assault charges have been laid at those who intentionally withhold their HIV+ status from their partners, especially if they deliberately tried to infect others with the disease.

In 2017, an Ethiopian migrant in Sweden was charged with aggravated assault on top of rape charges after he had sex with a 14-year-old and a 13-year-old. Reports also noted the Ethiopian had stopped taking antiviral drugs at the time as well.

In the United States, California reduced the penalty for intentionally infecting others with HIV from a felony to a misdemeanour.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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