Paul Kidd from the HIV Legal Working Group (VAC and Positive Life VIC) launched a recently published consensus statement about HIV and the law at the ASHM hub during the afternoon break on Wednesday. The consensus statement was written by leading HIV clinicians and scientists and was published in MJA on the 7 November.
Paul Kidd provided context around the development of the statement and an overview of the key points covered in the statement.
There have been at least 38 Criminal cases related to HIV transmission or exposure in Australia and the rate of prosecutions hasn’t decreased with advancements in treatment and prevention options. HIV-related criminal prosecutions require that legal professionals interpret scientific evidence on HIV transmission risk and the harms associated with an HIV diagnosis. History indicates that scientific concepts may have been inconsistently applied in Australian trials and some people have received very harsh sentences (arguably too harsh).
The statement outlines the latest evidence on HIV transmission risk, prevention and treatment. The main points covered in the statement:
• The risk of HIV transmission during sex is very low (and may have been overstated in HIV-related legal cases in the past).
• In addition to condom use, the following should be considered as taking reasonable precautions to prevent transmission:
o If an HIV-positive partner has an undetectable viral load OR
o if the HIV-negative partner is taking PrEP
• Phylogenetic analysis cannot prove causation in HIV-related cases.
• Most people living with HIV are able to take simple and effective treatment and will have a normal life expectancy.
The statement recommends:
• Legal cases relating to HIV transmission should consider the best scientific evidence on HIV risk and harms
• Alternatives to prosecution, such as the public health management approach, are often appropriate
Paul thanked the impressive contributors for their authorship and the wider working group for their commitment to the statement. I was lucky enough to be involved in the development of the statement and it was great to be present for the launch.
The statement is available on the MJA website at: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/205/9/sexual-transmission-hiv-and-law-australian-medical-consensus-statement
A PDF is available on the ASHM website: