Tuesday, 17 May 2016

No need to disclose HIV status before sex - proposed law changes NSW

The New South Wales gov is proposing changes to the way HIV is addressed in the state by the Public Health Act. There's a few things that may concern some people, of which a community forum on May24th is planned to discuss concerns.

One of them is that for newly diagnosed people they will go on the NSW Health "notifiable diseases" register listed by their name and address as HIV+, instead of anonymously as has been the case until now. 
Benefits of Named notification of HIV and AIDS
In response to these environmental changes, the NSW Health’s preliminary view is that there are more benefits than harms in moving to named notifications of HIV and AIDS, with the key benefits being: improved patient follow up and linkage to treatment and care; improved retention of patients in care; better understanding of the relationship between HIV and STIs; and better identification of risk factors that may assist in effective prevention strategies.

We agree that named notification will bring substantial benefits to people with HIV. However, it would be essential that protections are written into the Act to stop the potential for subpoenaing of sensitive health information in criminal cases. It is also important to acknowledge that if named notification of HIV and AIDS are implemented in NSW that it will only apply to new diagnoses and will not be retrospectively applied. Gay News Network
By far the most progressive proposed change is the abolition of requiring people to divulge that they are HIV positive before having sex. This is long overdue. The criminalisation of non-disclosure makes the spread of HIV worse.
Benefits of the removal of the requirement to disclose HIV status before sex
The final change being proposed relates to the requirement to disclose HIV status before sex. Currently, section 79 of the Act makes it an offence for a person with an STI to have sex with another person unless they inform the partner of the risk of transmission of the STI, prior to sexual intercourse taking place and the partner voluntarily accepts the risk. 

However, the requirement to disclose, although applying to all STIs, unfairly targets people living with diagnosed HIV. It can be argued that the requirement to disclose 

1) discourages HIV and STI testing; 

2) encourage anonymous sex (because if a person can’t be traced, they can’t be prosecuted) and 

3) results in discrimination where information can be used against the person with HIV. 

There is no evidence that disclosure is effective in reducing HIV or STIs. In fact, disclosure may have negative impacts in HIV and STI prevention. Therefore in principal, NSW Health supports the removal from the Act of the requirement to disclose. Gay News Network 
 *Go here to get the community forum details.