Positive Life NSW says Labor’s HIV testing proposal is “draconian”

Positive Life NSW, a community organisation that represents people living with HIV, says  NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay (pictured) and Labor need to reconsider their proposal to enforce mandatory HIV testing.

The group says the plan is based on flawed and erroneous misinformation about how HIV and other blood-borne viruses (BBVs) are transmitted. Positive Life are just one of the many HIV organisations who have slammed the proposal.

The proposed policy would be similar to laws in Western Australia, where people who are accused of passing on bodily fluids to emergency service workers will be forced to undergo a test for HIV and other blood-borne viruses. Health professionals have criticises the plan saying it’s not based on science.

A recent report showed that in states where the laws have been introduced they are used with alarming frequency, despite politicians declaring they would be rarely used when the legislation was introduced.

Positive Life NSW’s Interim-CEO Neil Fraser said they were appalled at the proposal being put forward by NSW Labor.

“We are appalled that the NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay, NSW Labor and the NSW Police Association are using misinformation and alarm to introduce a Bill to enforce mandatory testing of individuals whose bodily fluids come into contact with emergency services personnel, such as police officers,” Positive Life’s interim-CEO Neil Fraser said.

“Laws based on outdated misconceptions and myths about how HIV and other BBVs are transmitted, simply perpetuate stigma and discrimination,” Fraser said. “Evidence has demonstrated, there have never been any cases of blood borne viruses transferred by saliva.”

Positive Life urged NSW Labor to endorse policies and legislation based on sound medical evidence provided by the Australian Medical Association and supported by best-practice testing guidelines.

“As NSW’s only peer-based HIV agency and voice of people living with HIV, we condemn any assault on our front-line workers in police, corrections, emergency services and health,” said Robert Agati, President of Positive Life. “However, mandatory testing will not resolve potential exposure incidents, and this Bill will only setback any inroads that have been made into ending HIV stigma,” he said.

Positive Life have spoken out against the proposal alongside ACON, while Rainbow Labor, the LGBTIQ branch of the party, have broken ranks to condemn the policy.

Health advocates have slammed the proposal to force people whose bodily fluids come into contact with emergency services personnel to undergo mandatory testing for HIV and other blood borne viruses.

McKay announced the plan to follow other states and bring in the mandatory testing laws during an interview on radio station 2GB with host Ray Hadley.

After the interview Hadley appeared to infer that people could be infected by HIV via biting or spitting.

“Just say for instance a police officer, an ambulance officer, someone in health services gets spat on in the face, gets bitten, well obviously, they live for the next six months until testing can clear them with the fear that they’ve contracted some disease from the person inflicting the bite or spitting in their face,” Hadley said.

“Well the legislation Jodi is promoting is that, immediately if that happens, if there’s an act of violence against one of these people – police officers, ambulance officers, or healthcare workers, the person inflicting the bite or spitting at them must immediately be tested, so that there is some surety for the person who has been spat at or bitten, either a police officer or an ambulance officer, whatever it is, can be told within a very short space of time, ‘oh that persons not got a problem or that person does have a problem, you could have a problem’ so that they can start treatment if they require it.”

Hadley went on to say that the possibility of being infected with a blood-borne virus would make people unable to have normal relationships with their partners, and would affect their interaction with their children and stop them from being affectionate.

“In the past what has happened, and what is happening today, is if an officer goes out tonight in NSW and … he or she gets bitten by some grub they’re trying to arrest, and the grub won’t consent, and isn’t forced to have a blood test, well the officer for the next six months can’t have a normal relationship with their partner, male or female, can’t have a normal relationship with their children, an affectionate relationship with their children in the normal sense, until they find out in six months time that they haven’t contracted some disease from the person that inflicted the bite or the spit,” Hadley claimed.

OIP Staff