Users on social media have slammed a story in The Courier Mail as “lazy” after the newspaper failed to acknowledge that HIV cannot be transmitted via spit.

The story, about a man who appeared in court over spitting on a security guard and claiming he was HIV-positive, was labelled “stigmatising” and “anti-scientific”.

Charged with serious assault and obstructing police, Stephen John Gallagher appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Saturday.

Gallagher allegedly claimed to be HIV-positive after spitting in the face of a security guard who alleges he refused to allow Gallagher to leave a Brisbane venue carrying a drink.

HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva.

However, the charge was upgraded from serious assault to assault occasioning bodily harm after the court heard he had claimed to be HIV-positive.

Gallagher’s Legal Aid-appointed representation told the court that the man was not, in fact, HIV-positive. The court ordered Gallagher undergo testing.

“When HIV is used as a weapon, it is almost invariably by people who don’t have HIV,” activist Paul Kidd tweeted.

“Impossible to be infected with HIV by being spit on,” another used tweeted. “No single case report in literature.”

At last month’s World AIDS Conference, experts published a consensus statement which put forth their position that the criminalisation of HIV has no scientific basis.

“Only certain body fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk” can transmit HIV.

In 2016, advocates called out laws in some states and territories which required people who bite or spit on police officers to undergo a test for HIV.

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

UPDATE: Stephen John Gallagher contacted the Star Observer with comment on this story.

Gallagher says that the he “peacefully left the establishment and was not refused to leave as CCTV will show.”

Gallagher says “there is no such order” to undergo testing “and no test was taken.”

This article has also been altered to clarify the allegations against Gallagher, and though it states the charges against him were upgraded from Serious Assault to Assault occasioning bodily harm, this is in fact a downgraded charge.

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