The LGBTQI caucus of the Australian Labor Party has broken ranks with NSW Labor and NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay over its support for a policy that would allow NSW Police to force people who have been charged but not convicted to submit to blood testing for blood-borne viruses (BBV).
Jodi McKay announced her party would move legislation granting this power to the NSW Police earlier this week in an interview with radio personality Ray Hadley, who after speaking on air with McKay went on to repeatedly suggest that BBVs like HIV could be spread by biting or scratching a person or via a person kissing their child.
Rainbow Labor publicly called out NSW Labor and its leader in a statement posted to social media yesterday.
The statement read as follows: “We [Rainbow Labor] are writing to formally condemn your proposal to introduce a Bill to enforce mandatory blood testing of individuals whose bodily fluids come into contact with emergency services personnel, such as police officers.
“This decision further stigmatises those living with HIV, undoing the work of countless advocates over decades.
“The proposal for mandatory blood testing is based on zero evidence. Mandatory testing has been rejected by the NSW Australian Medical Association (AMA) as ineffective.
“As trade unionists we believe that no one should be made to feel unsafe at work. Many of our Rainbow Labor members work are frontline workers, particularly nurses and social workers. We understand the genuine concerns that all frontline workers have around assault. However this is a policy that will not reduce harm and will instead further stigmatise those living with HIV.
“There are already protocols for all emergency service personal and health workers to be tested for Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) following needle-stick injuries, as this is a potential route of transmission. These policies also already involve compulsory vaccinations for Hepatitis for workers whose workplaces place them at risk of direct contact with blood. We would also like to emphasise that bodily fluids such as saliva do not and have never been proven to transmit the HIV virus or any other BBV. There is a wealth of research from the 1980s onwards which dispels myths regarding potential routes of HIV transmission.
“Mandatory testing policies such as this do not the risk reduce harm and transmission of BBV and instead further stigmatise people living with HIV and is an infringement on human rights.
“At a time where our Federal Party has opposed drug-testing of welfare recipients on the grounds that such policies stigmatise vulnerable members of our communities we believe that a proposed bill such as this is out of step with our own party’s values.
“We also note that neither leading NSW HIV prevention organisation ACON nor Hepatitis NSW were consulted regarding changes to this legislation. We believe that this is unacceptable as genuine consultation with key stakeholders and experts in the field should be a core feature of any good policy-making.
“The Australian Labor Party have long been leaders in the field of HIV prevention and protecting the rights of people living with HIV from discrimination. This will be a giant step backwards.
“We are also dismayed by the misleading nature of data used to justify this proposal. Evidence should determine policy, not fear.
“We urge you to reconsider this policy and to consult with ACON, Hepatitis NSW and the AMA NSW.”
The statement was signed off by Rainbow Labor NSW convenors Cat Jane, Zack Solomon and Andre Charadia.
The Star Observer is seeking comment from relevant parties for a special feature for the November issue of the magazine.