Tasmania does not have an HIV-specific law but in theory the general criminal law could be used to prosecute a person for HIV exposure or transmission, including charges of unlawfully wounding or causing grievous bodily harm under the Criminal Code Act.
The only person prosecuted to date was convicted for knowingly putting another person at risk of HIV under section 51 of the Public Health Act. The Act states that a person who knows they have a notifiable disease (HIV) must take all reasonable measures and precautions to prevent transmission and must not knowingly or recklessly place another person at risk. It is a defence if the other person knew of and voluntarily accepted the risk of acquiring HIV. In this case, the man was already subject to a public health order to refrain from activity that might cause HIV to be transmitted but was found to have had unprotected sex with another man. He was sentenced to 5 month’s jail. Due to the strong privacy provisions contained in the Public Health Act (section 62), the man’s identity was not made public.
Criminal Code Act 1924
Section 172 Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm
Any person who unlawfully wounds or causes grievous bodily harm to any person by any means whatever is guilty of a crime.
Public Health Act 1997
Section 51 Transmitting disease
(1) A person who is aware of having a notifiable disease –
(a) must take all reasonable measures and precautions to prevent the transmission of the disease; and
(b) must not knowingly or recklessly place another person at risk of contracting the disease.
Penalty: Fine not exceeding 100 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.
(2) It is a defence in any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) for a person to prove that the other person knew of, and voluntarily accepted, the risk of getting the disease
Section 62 Prohibition and restriction on publication
(1) In any proceedings relating to a notifiable disease, a court of its own motion, or on the application of a person under subsection (2) , may make an order prohibiting or restricting the publication of any part of the proceedings if satisfied that it is in the best interest of a party to the proceedings, or a witness in respect of the proceedings, to do so.
(2) The Director, or a party to or witness in respect of, any proceedings may apply to a court for an order referred to in subsection (1).
(3) In any proceedings relating to a notifiable disease, a court, of its own motion or on the application of a person under subsection (4), may make an order closing the court if satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so.
(4) The Director, or a party to, or witness in respect of, any proceedings may apply to a court for an order referred to in subsection (3).
Our thanks to Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox for their research assistance to confirm current relevant legislation.