HIV, Criminal Law and Public Health Forum

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13 Oct 2011

Criminal prosecutions involving HIV transmission or exposure are becoming more common around the world, including in Australia.

These prosecutions, and the media they generate, have sparked renewed interest in the intersection of criminal law and public health measures. There has been particular focus on the negative impacts that prosecutions can have on people living with HIV, among affected communities and on the wider community’s understanding of Australia’s HIV epidemic.

To facilitate discussion of these issues and potential options for policy reform, NAPWHA and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) hosted an HIV, Criminal Law and Public Health Forum in Canberra, on the 29th September 2011. The forum aimed to examine the intersection of criminal, public health and civil laws relating to the sexual transmission of, and exposure to HIV.

A range of speakers from affected communities, public health agencies, government, health and community based sectors examined the Australian context. Attendance was by invitation only, and the workshop was closed to media. Their Australian experience was also compared with what is occurring internationally.

The forum:

  • outlined the criminalisation of HIV transmission and exposure in Australia and internationally
  • explored the interface between public health responses and the application of criminal law and civil law
  • explored how the arbitrary application of criminal laws regarding HIV transmission and exposure can effectively criminalise people living with HIV
  • aimed to generate momentum for progressive reform and identify potential interventions that may reduce the reliance on criminal sanctions to manage people who place others at risk of HIV infection

A communiqué was presented and was widely endorsed by the forum.

PDFs of forum program, presentations and communiqué are available below.

A final report of the forum has also been produced and is available below.