UK: Avon and Somerset Police apologise after being accused of spreading misinformation over the use of spithoods and HIV transmission

Avon and Somerset Police apology over spit hood statement

Avon and Somerset Police has apologised after announcing officers would wear spit hoods to prevent the transmission of diseases.

In a statement last week it said: “Each day we face being spat at, putting us at risk of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis”.

However several HIV and AIDS organisations have accused the force of spreading misinformation.

NHS guidelines state that HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva.

In a statement on Twitter, the force said: “We did not mean to cause any offence to people living with HIV or Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, and we are very sorry if this has been the case.

“It was never our intention to reinforce stigma for people living with those conditions.

“Our aim has never been to focus attention on people living with health conditions, but to provide officers with means of protection from people who use spit as a weapon.”

‘Fuels misconceptions’

The British HIV Association said: “To be spat at is frightening and degrading and we really do empathise. But spitting does not, under any circumstances, transmit HIV.

“Suggesting that it might only fuels the misconceptions and stigma people with HIV face daily. Please don’t use HIV as justification for spit guards.”

Bristol-based HIV charity Brigstowe Project added: “We understand and sympathise with the need for police protection but implore Avon and Somerset Police to justify this using facts, not fiction.”

Avon and Somerset Police plans to introduce controversial spit hoods from January.

The transparent mesh fabric hoods are used to prevent those arrested from spitting or biting officers.

Published in the BBC on Nov 22, 2017