A national HIV organisation is horrified by recent calls from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland to start ‘monitoring’ HIV-positive people in Australia.
NAPWA executive director Jo Watson told Southern Star comments by AMA Queensland president Dr Mason Stevenson that the current national register monitoring HIV notifications isn’t being used to its full potential are “ignorant”.
Stevenson told AAP the current national HIV register could be used to determine if HIV-positive people are regularly seeking treatment and to “re-enforce safe sex practices”.
“We were pretty horrified,” Watson said. “I have to say that it caught us by surprise there was that sort of comment coming from any sort of Australian medical body.
“It seem[s] to be so incredibly ignorant in terms of the comments not really understanding what already occurs in terms of public health guidelines and policies around monitoring safe practices, and protection of people through a range of public health frameworks.”
Stevenson’s remarks were made following the arrest of a HIV-positive circus acrobat alleged to have had unprotected sex with women without disclosing his status.
Watson said using the national HIV register to monitor people would infringe on individual freedoms.
“Australia has a national HIV surveillance registry. That’s quite different from the notion the AMA Queensland president and others were implying we need some sort of register, a notion that people were all going to be named and collated for the way they moved around the country,” Watson said.
“The [suggestion] was incredibly offensive and just inappropriate.”
Watson said the calls echo those made in the 1980s at the height of fear campaigns about the spread of AIDS.
“The [HIV] management guidelines in place were only nationally endorsed last year,” she said.
“They’re a framework by which all the states and territories work with each other and they’ve been endorsed by groups like NAPWA and others as being appropriate for first putting forward the principles of health promotion and trying to support people in appropriate counselling and education before we look at the more punitive measures.”