Leading HIV experts want people who recklessly spread the disease to be counselled instead of prosecuted.
They claim better treatment means HIV isn’t as serious as it used to be, with most sufferers able to maintain a life expectancy comparable to those without the disease.
In a consensus statement published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, the researchers urge caution when considering criminal charges for HIV transmission.
They argue the evidence shows transmission of HIV through sexual acts is low to non-existent, depending on the sex act, and whether or not condoms or anti-HIV medications are used.
“Given the limited risk of HIV transmission per sexual act and the limited long term harms experienced by most people recently diagnosed with HIV, appropriate care should be taken before HIV prosecutions are pursued,” they write.
“Careful attention should be paid to the best scientific evidence on HIV risk and harms, with consideration given to alternatives to prosecution, including public health management.”
The researchers insist it is “extremely unusual” to find people dismissive of the need to protect others from HIV infection.
But in rare cases where that does happen, they’re urging authorities to consider public health management – changing behaviours through counselling, education and addressing underlying causes of risk behaviour – as an alternative to prosecution.
— Ken Pinkela (@kenpinkela) November 3, 2016
There have been at least 38 criminal prosecutions for HIV sexual transmission in Australia and the researchers claim scientific concepts have been inconsistently applied across those cases.
“In some cases, the risks and impacts of HIV infection may have been overstated,” they said.