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Monday, 25 February 2008

Australia: New Victoria public health policy clarifies when 'risky' HIV-positive individuals should be reported to the police

I spoke too soon in my posting yesterday regarding reassurances from Victoria's chief health office, Dr John Carnie, on a new policy from the public health department about reporting HIV-positive individuals who did not disclose or use condoms to the police.

A report in today's The Age quotes Dr Carnie as saying:

anyone who had intentionally infected someone else, had committed crimes such as rape, or had shown they were unwilling to change their behaviour after being ordered to do so by the department, would be reported to the police.

Full story from The Age below.

Police to be told about reckless HIV acts

Julia Medew
February 26, 2008

HIV-POSITIVE people who ignore warnings not to have unprotected sex will be reported to police under new Department of Human Services guidelines.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Dr John Carnie, said that, under the system, anyone who had intentionally infected someone else, had committed crimes such as rape, or had shown they were unwilling to change their behaviour after being ordered to do so by the department, would be reported to the police.

Under the previous system, Dr Carnie said there were no guidelines to indicate when a case required police attention.

"This system makes it much more explicit," he said.

On the department's website, the previous guidelines for the management of people living with HIV who put others at risk says the police will only become involved if someone outside the department makes a complaint to them.

When the department receives allegations that an HIV-positive person is not disclosing their status and having unprotected sex, trained staff contact the person to remind them of their legal obligations to disclose their status or practise safe sex.

If they do not change their behaviour and the department receives more allegations, the person can be served with a legally binding public health order restricting their behaviour. The orders can impose restrictions on people's movements or ban them from a gay beat or sex-on-premises venue.

If the Chief Health Officer believes the person poses an urgent risk to public health, he can detain the person under the Health Act in a secure facility.

Dr Carnie exercised this power in December when he placed an HIV-positive person in an undisclosed secure location. The person, who has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, is still there.

Dr Carnie, who replaced Dr Robert Hall after he was sacked by the government last year, has ruled out genotyping new HIV infections — developing a genetic profile of the virus in patients — to track who or what is driving up infections in Victoria.

Former health minister Bronwyn Pike sacked Dr Hall last April after a string of communication failures over his management of HIV cases and a fatal outbreak of gastroenteritis at a nursing home.

HIV infections recently reached their highest level in Victoria in 20 years. The department was notified of 334 cases in 2006, 17% higher than the 285 in 2005 and the highest since 1987.



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