Australia

Number of reported cases At least 38 How do we calculate the number of cases

Overview

In Australia, each of the eight states and territories have criminal laws which could be applied to people living with HIV. There are no HIV-specific criminal laws in Australia, with the last HIV-specific law repealed in Victoria in 2014. HIV criminalisation cases usually involve use of general criminal laws, including laws of assault, causing injury or bodily harm, and endangering life. Cases relate both to alleged exposure and transmission. No person has been prosecuted under general criminal laws when a condom has been used.

All jurisdictions also have public health laws which generally require people to take reasonable precautions to prevent HIV transmission. Penalties under public health laws are usually far lower than under criminal laws, and many public health Acts include privacy protections so defendants cannot be publicly named. Individuals are rarely charged with public health offences.

States and territories have formal public health management guidelines for health departments working with people who put others at risk of HIV infection. These guidelines require that interventions be as supportive as possible, and that the least invasive, effective interventions be used.

More information is available on the following states

Australian Capital Territory

Number of reported cases 1

New South Wales

Number of reported cases 11

Northern Territory

Number of reported cases 1
First reported case 1997

Queensland

Number of reported cases 7
First reported case 1989

South Australia

Number of reported cases 4
First reported case 2006

Tasmania

Number of reported cases 1
First reported case 2011

Victoria

Number of reported cases 20
First reported case 1991

Western Australia

Number of reported cases 6
First reported case 1998

Further resources

This resource by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) aims to provide health care workers with information on legal and ethical responsibilities under various laws and regulations related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It does not contain legal advice. Originally authored by Sally Cameron it was updated in 2019 by Michael Frommer

Reports that following the high profile prosecution of an HIV positive sex worker (no transmission), sex workers became fearful of HIV testing for HIV. In the four-week period following the court case, attendance at the sex worker outreach medical service dropped from an average of 40 per night to three.

Addresses the criminal prosecution of people who transmit HIV in Australia. Examines the legal, moral and ethical justification for laws criminalising HIV transmission and the impacts of criminalisation on people with HIV.

Audit revealing that mandatory testing laws are at odds with national HIV testing policy and are operating outside the structured and highly successful HIV responses managed by clinicians and departments of health. The audit found that in many instances, the laws, their implementation, and monitoring include numerous structural failures, usually occurring in multiple states.

Clarifies that recklessness regarding HIV transmission risk is not the same as intention to transmit HIV. This ruling means that if people are convicted of having sex without disclosing their HIV status, they will be convicted of lesser charges with lower penalty.

Webpage from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) on how the law may affect people living with HIV in light of their HIV status.

Acknowledgements

Our thanks to Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox for their research assistance to confirm current relevant legislation.

This information was last reviewed in September 2020