There’ll be no changes to the way the Department of Health refers individuals putting others at risk of HIV to police, Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said.
The comment follows calls from Victoria’s peak HIV bodies for a further review — or clarifification — of protocols between the department and Victoria Police.
“It’s my duty and our duty in terms of protecting public health to take appropriate action against people who behave in a dangerous way,” Andrews told Southern Star.
“We had some reviews only a couple of years ago. We fully implemented all of the findings and what that showed us, and what all the international experts said, was we had perhaps the best legal framework of any state.
“I’m not foreshadowing a review. I believe we’ve got the balance right.”
The National Association of People Living With HIV/AIDS released a monograph in October calling for a move away from dealing with HIV transmission issues in court, saying a hardline criminal prosecution response was hindering prevention efforts.
Twelve HIV-related prosecution cases have been heard in Victorian courts out of a total of 22 cases across Australia since 1993.
Victorian AIDS Council executive director Mike Kennedy has argued that high levels of discretion within the Health Department to refer cases to police have left many people unsure about where the line is drawn and what rights positive people have when disclosing information to the Department which may be later used in court.
Andrews said he was happy to talk to the HIV sector about their concerns but felt the broader Victorian community was behind the current laws.
“The balance is there, I don’t propose to change the law, I don’t propose to review these matters but we’ll listen to the positive community about ways in which we can break down fear, break down stigma and end some of the discrimination,” he said.
“I make no apology, and the Victorian community makes no apology, for dealing with people in an appropriate way who behave against the interests of others, who put the broader public health at risk. The [Michael] Neal case is one very pointed example of that.”