ACON condemns NSW plan for mandatory HIV testing
Community HIV organisation ACON has condemned NSW Labor government moves to introduce a Bill enforcing mandatory testing of individuals whose bodily fluids come into contact with emergency services personnel such as police officers.
ACON has strongly opposed moves to introduce mandatory disease testing as it is reported to be ineffective in reducing harm or risk to people involved in potential exposure incidents. In the lead-up to the NSW state election in March 2019, ACON canvassed major parties on whether they opposed mandatory testing and NSW Labor affirmed their opposition, adding “we have no plans to change the current law”.
“Mandatory testing is a confused and poorly regulated policy in some other jurisdictions, is not based on any evidence of occupational transmission of disease, is rejected by the NSW Australian Medical Association as ineffective and it represents a broken election promise,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
Advances in prevention and treatment of HIV mean that police have access to treatments that effectively prevent the transmission of the virus, and these treatments are prescribed by doctors who are trained in identifying potential risk.
“We strongly believe in the importance of the wellbeing and safety of emergency service personnel. We agree they must be protected as much as is reasonably possible in a high-level occupational risk environment. However, there are other ways to manage anxiety and risks for blood-borne viruses (BBVs) rather than resorting to legislation that gives police the power to mandatorily test alleged offenders — which is an approach that goes against expert advice, lacks an evidence base and relies on 30-year-old notions of HIV and other BBVs,” Parkhill said.
A 2019 report compiled by the National Association of People Living with HIV Australia highlights the complexity of introducing mandatory testing laws and the discrepancies between these laws in Australian jurisdictions.
The report highlights that advances in prevention and treatment of HIV mean that transmission of the virus is extremely unlikely, noting that there have been no occupational transmissions in Australia for 17 years. The report also mentions that the implementation of such laws does not reduce the risk of transmission or affect the treatment pathway for individuals who may be exposed to HIV, and that in some cases, decisions relating to transmission risk are made by non-experts.
“Punitive laws based on outdated misconceptions and myths about how HIV and other BBVs are transmitted, and which perpetuate stigma and discrimination, do not need to be introduced during a time when HIV notifications are at historic lows in NSW, when HIV is a treatable and manageable condition, and when inroads are being made into ending HIV stigma,” Parkhill said.
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