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For information on getting involved in HIV criminalization reform advocacy in Tennessee, please email info@seroproject.com.

Data from the GNP+ Global Criminalisation Scan

Number of prosecutions50
Number of convictions40
Applicable laws

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-109

It is unlawful for a person, knowing that he or she is infected with HIV, to knowingly: (1) engage in intimate contact with another; (2) transfer, donate or provide any potentially infectious body fluid or part for administration to another person in any manner that presents a significant risk of HIV transmission; or (3) transfer in any way to another any nonsterile intravenous or intramuscular drug paraphernalia. “Intimate contact with another” means the exposure of the body of one person to a bodily fluid of another person in any manner that presents a significant risk of HIV transmission. It is an affirmative defense, if proven by a preponderance of the evidence, that the person exposed to HIV knew the infected person was infected with HIV, knew the action could result in infection with HIV, and gave advance consent to the action with that knowledge. The actual transmission of HIV is not a required element of this offense.

Violation of this statute is a class C felony punishable by three to fifteen years imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $10,000. (If an HIV-positive person is convicted under this statute she/he will also have to register as a sex offender.)

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-516

A person commits aggravated prostitution when, knowing that such person is infected with HIV, the person engages in sexual activity as a business or in a house of prostitution or loiters in a public place for the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity. Actual transmission of HIV is not a required for prosecution. Violation of this statute is a class C felony punishable by three to fifteen years imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 68-10-107, 68-10-101

It is unlawful for any person infected with an STD to expose another person to such infection. This is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no more than $50 and/or imprisonment for no more than thirty days. (HIV is identified as STD in Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1200-14-1-.41.)


Between February 2009 and August 2011, eleven HIV-related criminal cases were reported in the media. Charges related to sexual HIV non-disclosure (8) spitting whilst HIV-positive (2) and sex work whilst HIV-positive (1)  The outcome of only two cases is known - in one case charges were dropped, and in the other defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years of probation.

According to a June 2009 media report, at least thirty-nine women in Tennessee have been convicted of aggravated prostitution (i.e sex work whilst HIV-positive).

At our last update, in November 2008, we had recorded 19 cases and 14 convictions. Since it is impossible to know how many of those related to sex work whilst HIV-positive, we have calculated the latest estimates using those 39 cases plus at least eleven other cases reported in the media since Feburary 2009.  This means we are neccessarily understimating the total number of HIV-related criminal cases.

Given that there are an estimated 15,715 people living with (diagnosed) HIV in Tennessee (Source: Tennessee Department of Health)  prosecutions per capita of PLHIV are estimated to be a minimum of 3.18 per 1000.

Further reading

Positive Justice Project. Ending & Defending Against HIV Criminalization, A  Manual For Advocates: Vol 1 States and Federal Laws and Prosecutions. Center for HIV Law and Policy, New York. Fall 2010 (with additional laws and cases through December 2011).

Recent cases can be found at: Positive Justice Project. Prosecutions and Arrests for HIV Exposure in the United States, 2008–2012. Center for HIV Law and Policy, 2012.

Further cases and news can be found at: http://www.hivjustice.net/country/us/tn-tennessee/