CJ Palmer to be sentenced as concerns raised about criminalisation of HIV

Perth woman CJ Palmer will be sentenced for committing Grievous Bodily Harm in Perth’s District Court this afternoon.

The 40 year old woman, who is transgender and was a sex worker, was found guilty last month of causing Grievous Bodily Harm because she failed to inform a sex partner of her HIV status.

During the trial Palmer claimed that she had not been informed that she had HIV, but her defence was rejected by the jury.

Concern has been raised regarding the case as Palmer will be required to serve any custodial sentence in a male prison. She previously served nine months in prison while on remand and was largely kept in isolation in a ‘Special Handling Unit’.

The Scarlet Alliance, a WA based lobby group for sex workers has raised concern over the case arguing that criminal charges are not an effective methodology for reducing transmission of HIV.

“Criminalisation is not and has never been an effective method of HIV prevention. It does not reduce HIV transmission and the resulting stigma and discrimination increase barriers to effective health promotion.” the group said in a media statement.

Jules Kim, CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association said prosecutions over HIV undermined the efforts put forward in the public health system.

“HIV does not belong in the criminal justice system. This is an extremely unfortunate outcome, both for the individuals involved and for the wider community. Prosecutions for HIV transmission undermine the public health response to HIV by creating an environment of fear and prejudice. This reinforces stigma and contributes to further HIV transmissions.” Kim said.

The Scarlet Alliance questioned if the laws had remained relevant with ongoing changes to the management of HIV, highlighting that HIV is now classed as a manageable chronic illness.

Lena Van Hale, Manager of the WA sex worker support project Magenta said it was concerning that transgender prisoners who have not had surgery will still be sentenced under their former gender identity.

“We are deeply disappointed that trans and gender diverse prisoners in WA are still not being housed according to their correct gender. We do not believe that surgical intervention is an appropriate way to decide which trans prisoners are treated with dignity.” Hale said.

WA AIDS Council CEO David Kernohan has also written about how the case has classified HIV and the way transgender people are recognised in the justice system.

OIP Staff

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