Australia: Delegates at Australia’s national HIV/AIDS conference condemn antiscientific laws mandating HIV testing for people accused of spitting at police officers

Media Release

Adelaide: Friday, 18 November 2016

Delegates at Australia’s national HIV/AIDS conference have condemned the governments of South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory over laws that force people accused of criminal offences to undergo mandatory HIV and blood-borne virus testing.

The conference passed a resolution this afternoon expressing its ‘profound disappointment’ in the laws, which make it mandatory for people to undergo blood tests if they are accused of spitting on or biting law enforcement personnel. The laws were passed in South Australia and Western Australia in 2014, and in the Northern Territory in 2016.

Australia has a proud record of basing its HIV response on evidence-based policy,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Levinia Crooks CEO of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM). “These laws are antiscientific — the risk of transmission of HIV or other blood-borne viruses from saliva is practically zero. There is no justification for invading the privacy of people in custody by forcing them to undergo blood tests when there is no risk to the officer.”

“We understand the considerable risks faced by police and emergency services when they go about their jobs, but this is not the solution. There has never been a case of HIV transmission from spitting or biting in Australia.”

The full text of the resolution passed by the conference is:

As researchers, clinicians, and civil society representatives, we are united in our commitment to a HIV response grounded in evidence and protective of the human rights of people living with and affected by HIV. This conference expresses its profound disappointment in the governments of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for enacting anti scientific and counterproductive laws mandating HIV testing for people accused of spitting on law enforcement personnel, in the face of overwhelming evidence that such laws are neither effective nor necessary. HIV is not transmitted in saliva and these laws only serve to further marginalise and criminalise people with HIV. We call on all governments to establish evidence-based protocols that protect the wellbeing of police and emergency workers and the rights of people living with HIV.

The Australasian HIV & AIDS Conference is the premier medical/scientific conference in the Australasian HIV and related diseases sector. The 2016 Conference was held in Adelaide from 16–18 November, in conjunction with the Australasian Sexual Health Conference.

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