Anonymous sex and condoms are no defence for failing to disclose one’s HIV status to a person before having sex, a new booklet launched this week by High Court Justice Michael Kirby advises.

But almost anyone else – like an employer, health insurer, sporting team – doesn’t need to know, according to the new publication by the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre, aimed at clarifying contradictory public health and disclosure laws in NSW. Several men were charged under similar laws in other states last year.

One set of public health laws, with a maximum penalty of $5,500, allows no defence for not disclosing before anal or oral sex contact occurs, even if the situation makes this difficult. But reckless non-disclosure under the Crimes Act can carry a 25-year sentence, but under that Act safe sex could be used as a defence.

There are some circumstances that the law requires you to reveal it, like before sex and in certain professions or sports like boxing, but by and large you don’t have to reveal your status, Kirby said at the launch on Tuesday.

That’s a good thing because there are no really efficient privacy laws in Australia to protect everybody. Even in our relatively enlightened country the fact people know you are HIV-positive can sometimes be a bad thing for a person to live with.

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