US Public Health Service updates occupational PEP guidance

Healthcare workers exposed to HIV at work should immediately begin four weeks of post-exposure prophylaxis with three antiretroviral drugs, according to new recommendations. The three-drug guideline is a change from the 2005 recommendations of the U.S.

UK: NAT (National AIDS Trust) produces new guide for police on occupational exposure to HIV

NAT (National AIDS Trust) is calling on all UK police forces to ensure their guidance and policies on HIV are up-to-date – and to use NAT’s new resource ‘HIV: A guide for Police Forces’ for this purpose.

“HIV: A guide for police forces” is endorsed by BHIVA (the British HIV Association) and includes information about how HIV is and isn’t transmitted, what to do if you are exposed to HIV, how to respond to someone with HIV, and information about criminal prosecution for HIV transmission. It also includes an easy-to-use check-list to ensure blood borne virus training and occupational health policies are fit for purpose and up-to-date.

The guide was produced in response to a review of a sample of policies and guidelines from 15 police constabularies out of the 50 in the UK, revealed in a 2012 report. NAT found some forces wrongly cited spitting, scratching, urine, sharing toothbrushes and handling or lifting of people as routes to transmission and also found policies recommending the use of “spit hoods” to protect police from HIV transmission, or stating that people living with HIV and in custody should be held separately and that interviews should be conducted through cell doors or cell door hatches.

The guide is especially targeted at police occupational health trainers, health and safety officers and medical advisers in police forces to improve existing HIV training and guidance. Advocates working with police in jurisdictions around the world may also find this guide useful as a way to encourage the police to update their training and improve the way they treat people living with HIV.

“By producing this guidance we have given police forces the information and evidence they need to ensure their policies and procedures on dealing with HIV are up-to-date and non-stigmatising and to help reduce unnecessary worry about HIV transmission amongst police officers.  We are now calling on them to make sure it is put into practice.”

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT

HIV: A Guide For Police Forces

Law Enforcement and HIV Policy Groups Release Fact Sheet for Police on HIV Risks “Spit Does Not Transmit” Intended to Reduce Officer Anxiety and Needless “Exposure” Prosecutions (Press Release)

The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the American Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (AAPA) today released a new fact sheet that they hope will bring law enforcement officers up to speed on the real risks of HIV that they face from possible exposure to the bodily fluids of those they police.

According to these organizations, every year people with HIV are the subject of felony criminal charges ranging from aggravated assault to intentional HIV transmission following police encounters in which defendants are accused of spitting at or biting police, usually in the course of a stop or arrest for a minor incident, such as disorderly conduct. Although the risk of transmission ranges from zero to far less than 1%, and there are no known cases of HIV transmission to a police or corrections officer from such events, spit and bite incidents have resulted in new or enhanced criminal charges and sentences of more than thirty years in prison. The fact sheet, Spit Does Not Transmit, provides current information, complete with citations to published experts, about transmission risks from non-sexual contact with a person’s bodily fluids.

“Accurate information is critical to law enforcement and corrections officers – In our line of work, our lives and the lives of others depend on it. Studies show just how much misinformation about HIV is transmitted among people in every part of the country, and every profession,” said Joseph Akers, Jr. NOBLE Interim Executive Director. “The nature of law enforcement is such that we encounter people from all walks of life with all sorts of problems. We are regularly exposed to risks; that’s the nature of the job.  It is important for officer safety that we understand the facts about HIV transmission, and it is also important that an arrest not turn into a more serious set of charges simply because the arrestee has HIV.”

Statistics show that of all the cases brought against people with HIV for so-called exposure offenses, twenty-five percent (25%) arise from incidents in which spitting or biting has been alleged, and almost all of these have been brought by law enforcement or corrections employees.  Law reform efforts that would eliminate the ability to prosecute people on the basis of their HIV or other disease status when they act without the intent or real ability to transmit – as is generally always the case with spitting and biting – are under discussion in multiple states, said Rashida Richardson, a staff attorney with CHLP.

“It is a waste of time and money to devote public safety resources to conduct that, while distasteful, poses no risk of harm,” observed David LaBahn, Executive Director of the American Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  “Too many prosecutions are based on outdated notions of what HIV is and how it is transmitted. Information is the antidote, and this is a good place to start.”

[Although focused on the US, this factsheet will be useful anywhere police are inadequately trained on HIV-related risks during occupational exposure, including discarded needles.]

The fact sheet is available below and on The Center for HIV Law and Policy’s website.

Spit Does Not Transmit, The Center for HIV Law and Policy, the National Organization of Black Law Enforceme…

UK: NAT letter to Guardian highlighting that police fears over occupational HIV exposure are unwarranted

A police officer in your article ( All in a night’s work, G2, 27 March) states getting HIV or hepatitis from uncapped needles as his biggest fear. Of all the risks police officers face, some highlighted elsewhere in the article, the risk of HIV infection is by far the lowest.

Canada: Police training and guidelines in criminal HIV non-disclosure cases urgently required

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) have submitted a paper to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Diversity Committee, informed by their extensive experience in working on the issue.

The paper includes concrete recommendations for police that could be addressed in a general Best Practice Manual, and recommend the development of specific guidelines in relation to non-disclosure of HIV (and possibly other sexually transmitted infections), in consultation with people living with HIV and the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure (CLHE), as well as other relevant stakeholders.

The submission states

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police should engage in a dialogue with representatives of the community, including the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure(CLHE) in order to develop:

    • training for police about HIV transmission and the realities of living with HIV today; and
    • guidelines for police handling matters of alleged HIV (and possibly other sexually transmitted infection) non-disclosure.

Indeed, both training and guidance on HIV-related issues are urgently required in the aftermath of last November’s Supreme Court ruling which has created a great deal of confusion regarding the exact circumstances when alleged HIV non-disclosure may be a crime.

As the submission notes

Guidelines can help ensure that complaints are handled in a fair, non-discriminatory and consistent manner across the province; criminal investigations are informed by current medical and scientific knowledge about HIV and the social contexts of living with HIV; criminal investigations do not reinforce societal prejudices, preconceptions, and irrational fears regarding HIV, or undermine public health efforts to prevent the spread of HIV; unnecessary investigations are not pursued; and the rights of people living with HIV and complainants are fully respected and preserved.

Guidance around confidentiality issues are needed now more than ever.  Last month, Toronto police issued a press release stating they were looking for a gay man “who failed to notify his partner that he is HIV positive.” The following day, they withdrew the alert “after police probed the case, [because] investigators found that no criminal offence was committed.”  Unusually in this case, however, no name or photo was released.

Specific recommendations from HALCO and the Legal Network on this issue state:

Police should consider the negative impacts of publicly disclosing a person’s HIV-positive status given the high level of stigma experienced by people living with HIV. Police must ensure that the privacy of HIV status and other medical information is respected to the greatest extent possible (applies to accused and complainants). Media releases including the name, picture and/or health information of an accused are extremely prejudicial for people living with HIV and should only be published in exceptional circumstances and under strict conditions. Police should be mindful that even where HIV is not specified on a police and/or media release, members of the general public and/or people associated with the accused may easily understand that the accused is HIV-positive because of general awareness of HIV non-disclosure prosecutions in Canada. Detailed guidance should be developed to assist police in making decisions to publish a police and/or a media release, and to assist police with the content of such releases. Guidance should be developed to assist police in communicating to the media and the public about cases involving HIV non-disclosure.

The campaign for police training and guidelines in Ontario runs in parallel with a similar campaign for prosecutorial guidelines. A recent article in Lawyers Weekly highlights how advocates have been pushing for such guidelines for several years, and are hopeful that some movement may now take place

That hope springs from two sources. First, Canadian provinces would not be the first to put such guidelines in place. England, Wales and Scotland already have related prosecutorial requirements. Second, Ontario’s justice ministry had previously indicated a willingness to do this before the recent SCC decisions were handed down.

The full submission can be read below or downloaded here.

The criminalization of HIV non-disclosure: Recommendations for police

Ex-Phoenix officer in sex case fighting HIV-test order

It was almost an afterthought when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered former Phoenix police Officer Christopher J. Wilson to submit to an HIV test while he awaited trial on allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor. The law allowing judges to order such tests for defendants suspected of certain crimes has been in place for about 20 years, and they are routinely submitted without legal challenges. But Wilson chose to fight it. His first challenge was rejected in Superior Court, but his attorney, Robert Campos, said he plans to file an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court, arguing that forcing Wilson to submit to the test without an evidentiary hearing amounts to a violation of his client’s constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

British Columbia's Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act to allow court-ordered HIV testing of anyone who exposes their "bodily substance" to first responders

The Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act was passed on May 31, 2012 and will come into play March 2, 2013. The new regulation sets out the legal and procedural details that support the act, including adding victims of crime to those who can apply for a testing order.

First responders are pleased that in just a month, they’ll have more peace of mind about being exposed to open wounds and needles on the job. In the past victim’s haven’t had to give a blood sample, but now paramedics and firefighters can get a court order. Before this, first responders would often go months wondering if they had contracted a disease like HIV or Hepatitis.

Galletly CL, Lazzarini Z. Charges for Criminal Exposure to HIV and Aggravated Prostitution Filed in the Nashville, Tennessee Prosecutorial Region 2000-2010.

Charges for Criminal Exposure to HIV and Aggravat… [AIDS Behav. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI

This paper examines comprehensive data on arrests for HIV-specific crimes within a single jurisdiction, the Nashville Tennessee prosecutorial region, over 11 years. There were 25 arrests for HIV exposure and 27 for aggravated prostitution. Eleven of the arrests for HIV exposure involved nonsexual behaviors; none alleged transmission. Sixteen of the arrests for HIV exposure involved sexual behavior; three alleged transmission. Aggravated prostitution cases (i.e. prostitution while knowing one has HIV) often involved solicitation of oral sex; none alleged transmission. Maximum sentences for HIV-specific crimes ranged from 5 to 8 years. We conclude that enforcement of US HIV-specific laws is underestimated. Fifty-two arrests over 11 years were recorded in one jurisdiction. Over half of the arrests involved behaviors posing minimal or no HIV transmission risk. Despite concerns about malicious, intentional HIV transmission, no cases alleged malice or intention.

Western Australia police want mandatory testing following biting or spitting incidence

The Adelaide, Australia, Police Association is requesting new laws to end the six-month wait for medical clearance for police officers who may have been exposed to bodily fluids in the course of their duties.

UNDP report looks at links between sex work, HIV and the law

New UN report takes a stark look at links between sex work, HIV and the law in Asia and the Pacific 18 October, Bangkok — Nearly all countries of Asia and the Pacific criminalize some aspects of sex work.