HIV advocates and researchers have unanimously passed a motion condemning laws in Australia that force people to take a HIV test if they spit on or bite a police officer.

In South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, if a person is accused of spitting on or biting law enforcement personnel, they must undergo a blood test to ensure they’re not HIV-positive.

The motion criticising the ‘disappointing’ laws was passed at the Australiasian HIV and AIDS Conference in Adelaide last week, and called on the government to establish evidence-based protocols instead.

“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,” the motion read.

“HIV is not transmitted in saliva and these laws only serve to further marginalise and criminalise people with HIV.”

Chief Executive of the Australiasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), Levinia Crooks, said Australia has a proud history of basing its HIV response on evidence-based policy.

“These laws are anti scientific – the risk of transmission of HIV or other blood-borne viruses from saliva is practically zero,” she said.

“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 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.”

South Australian Greens member Tammy Franks also slammed the spit test laws.

“This law is simply pointless and will likely increase the stress put on the police officer who may believe the test is needed and so may be fearful while the process is undertaken,” she said.

“Not only is this law insulting to those it claims to serve but it’s also setting some dangerous health precedents that will harm those with HIV who need our support, not the stigma that will stop those people from disclosing.

“Dumb laws like this undo the many decades of outstanding efforts made by so many Australian governments to lead the way on combatting HIV.”

The Australiasian HIV and AIDS Conference is a medical and scientific conference held each year in the Australiasian HIV and related diseases sector.

 

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