Will Australia repeal its only HIV specific law?

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That’s right, you heard it correctly – Victoria looks like it is going to repeal its HIV specific law in the next 12 months. This means Victoria will come into line with the practice of other states by AO Blog 01.08.14 shutterstock_97614020using a general criminal approach to HIV transmission. In case you struggled to keep up with the all of the announcement and breaking news stories of AIDS 2014, here is a short wrap-up of what happened about section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Hang on a second; what is 19A?

Victoria is the only state which has a criminal law applicable only to people who are HIV positive. Section 19A established the criminal offence of ‘intentionally causing a very serious disease’ and to which ‘very serious disease’ defined to mean HIV infection [1]. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law has been expressly condemned the use of HIV specific laws for transmission, non-disclosure and exposure [2].

So what actually happened?

It all began with the Beyond Blame Criminalisation Pre Conference. The Victorian Health Minister, David Davis during his opening address at the conference casually and unexpectedly announced that the government was going to amend 19A to make it non-discriminatory towards HIV.

Initial elevation over the announcement was tempered when the realisation that amending the law (to potentially include other conditions) would be doing more harm and injustice to wider range of people. In response, Living Positive Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council released a joint statement[3] calling for the repeal of 19A, bipartisan support and 5 key principles which must underpin any review or repeal of the law. The 5 principles were as follows:

  1. HIV to be treated as a health issue;
  2. Excise section 19A from the Crimes Act;
  3. Appropriate use of the Crimes Act in non-intentional transmission and exposure cases;
  4. Expert and community consultation; and
  5. Actions delivered within 12 months.

What happened next was truly inspiring.  On the same day, the Victorian Shadow Health Minister Gavin Jennings announced support of repealing 19A and the support of the 5 principles issued by Living Positive Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council.

Incredible! QPP will be blogging more on its developments as they occur.


 

[1] Living Positive Victoria/Victorian AIDS Council, Policy Brief: Repeal of Section 19A, available at http://www.livingpositivevictoria.org.au/repeal19A.
[2] Ibid and Global   Commission on HIV and the Law, ‘HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health’(United Nations Development Programme,  2012)25.
[3] http://www.livingpositivevictoria.org.au/announcements/action-agenda-to-remove-discriminatory-hiv-laws-in-victoria-and-advance-legacy-of-aids-2014