A peak Australian HIV organisation has raised concerns the federal Government’s proposed mandatory internet filter may hamper HIV prevention efforts.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) put forward a submission last month to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s internet filter consultation paper, saying obstructing sites which state HIV organisations target for safe-sex messages could be a mistake.

AFAO policy manager Abigail Groves told Southern Star there is concern that some sites, such as those depicting gay sex or BDSM, may be targeted unfairly.

“We’re concerned things like that might get caught up, particularly as the process being proposed seems to rely largely on complaints,” she said.

“The homophobic people are probably more likely to complain.”

While it’s unknown which sites will make the final cut, state-based AIDS Councils have already expressed their concerns.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion about exactly what the legislation is going to entail and what effect that will have,” Groves said.
“I don’t want to move to a disaster scenario. I think if our concerns aren’t respected, then ultimately that could have negative effects for some of the health promotion work we do and those issues will be raised in our submission.”

Groves said AFAO is pushing for the Refused Classification category — used to determine the filter ‘blacklist’ — should only apply to material which is illegal to possess, such as child pornography.

“We support a chance to block child pornography, as I think most people would.

“Our concern though is in attempting to address overtly criminal stuff like child pornography, is it going to be workable and what will its effect be on other things, like representations of gay sex or any other sort of explicit sexual representation?”

AFAO claim in their submission that research shows information, chat and pornographic sites play an important role in providing men-who-have-sex-with-men information about sexuality and sexual health.

The Victorian AIDS Council currently runs an online prevention program on Gaydar.com.

In related news, AFAO and the National Association of People Living with AIDS have started a new website called ‘Top Tips’, for people living with HIV to keep up-to-date with the latest information on managing and treating HIV.

info: Visit www.hivtoptips.org.au

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