AIDS groups have rejected calls for health authorities to report all cases of risky sex following allegations a Victorian government department knew a man might be spreading HIV but failed to alert police.
Melbourne man Michael Neal faced court on Monday charged with 17 offences, including intentionally infecting a man with HIV and trying to transmit the virus to others, the ABC’s AM program reported.
Neal, 47, also faced charges of drugging an alleged victim and possessing and making child pornography. He has been remanded in custody until June.
Police claimed Neal had unprotected sex with men between 2000 and 2005.
Police said they could lay further charges. Sources told Melbourne Star Neal may have transmitted HIV to as many as 70 people.
The report on AM alleged the Victorian Department of Human Services received several complaints that Neal was deliberately spreading HIV in 2001.
But the Department reportedly failed to tell police or use its authority to detain Neal.
The case has prompted calls for mandatory reporting of risky sex, a call that has raised concern in HIV/AIDS organisations.
As in NSW, it is a crime in Victoria to knowingly infect someone with HIV. But -“ like in other states and territories -“ doctors and government departments in Victoria are not legally obliged to report allegations of deliberate HIV transmission to police.
There have been some calls in Victoria for mandatory reporting by the health department or doctors if they were aware that people were engaging in risky behaviour that might put other people at risk, Victorian AIDS Council executive director Mike Kennedy told Sydney Star Observer.
We think that’s a really bad idea because in fact it would discourage people who were having some difficulty with practicing consistent safe sex from seeking assistance from professionals about how they might better manage that.
Kennedy said police intervention was necessary where there was clear criminal behaviour, but our concern would be that if you dealt with every case as a potential criminal case.
The take-home message for gay men around this is that you need to be taking responsibility for your own sexual health and not relying on other people to do that for you.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) president Ian Rankin said mandatory reporting could jeopardise the national response to HIV.
We wouldn’t want people who may think they have HIV being discouraged from testing and finding out whether they’ve got the virus or not and accessing the medical care, Rankin told the Star.
Michael Neal’s arrest comes six months after a Brisbane man was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison for knowingly transmitting HIV to his male partner.
Sydney man Stanislas Kanengele-Yondjo received a prison term of at least nine years in December for knowingly transmitting HIV to two women.