HIV and the law

HIV and the law

HIV and the law in Australia cover

HIV and the law in Australia: National Audit

This is an audit of Australian laws and policies undermining the goals and key areas of action of the National HIV Strategy. This audit deals mainly with three topics, which have a substantial and adverse impact on persons with HIV as well as other marginalised communities and the broader Australian population. These laws:

  • criminalise HIV transmission, exposure and the failure to disclose HIV status to a sexual partner;
  • define consent in a way that exposes people with HIV to criminalisation; and
  • enable Mandatory Disease Testing (MDT) that adversely impacts people with HIV.

 For each of these topics, this audit:

  • sets out the relevant laws of each state and territory in Australia;
  • notes the key issues in the area; and
  • outlines suggestions on law reform options.

This audit also aims to quantify the number of laws in Australia which undermine the Australian HIV response by criminalising people with HIV or stigmatising the virus and those who live with it. It is anticipated that this will facilitate a measure of success, or a lack thereof, as the number of these laws is reduced or increased in the future.

It is not the intention of this report to consider the intricacies of each individual offence and the relevant elements thereof. All maximum penalties specified in this document do not include consideration of aggravated offences unless specified.

Obtaining legal advice

The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) produces a number of guides to HIV and the lawHowever, please note that the information in the Guides is not a substitute for legal advice. Please contact HALC for advice if you have a specific legal problem.

Understanding the legal needs of people with HIV

Banner for the UTS Health+Law initiative

NAPWHA is proud to be a partner in the UTS Health+Law initiative, announced in October 2022. Health+Law is a research partnership to identify and eliminate legal barriers to testing and treatment for people living with Hepatitis B or HIV.

Health+Law is led by UTS Faculty of Law and a consortium of health, community, and legal sector organisations: the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC), the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPHWA), and Hepatitis Australia.

The partnership also draws on the expertise of HIV- and hepatitis-related community organisations from across Australia, and people with lived experience of blood-borne viruses.

Health+Law will have four principal activities, to be delivered over four consecutive years – 2022-2026:

  1. National assessment of enabling legal environment and barriers to testing and treatment: a national survey of people living with HIV or Hepatitis B; in-depth interviews with culturally diverse and Medicareineligible priority groups; and technical legal analysis, to create Australia’s first evidence-base of legal barriers and enablers to better health outcomes.
  2. Understanding the different impacts of legal barriers: an analysis of relative impacts on testing and treatment, quality of life, and health service delivery, to understand priorities for legal support and services, and law and policy reform.
  3. Development of STI- and Blood-Borne Virus-specific legal needs screening and referral tool and education: the co-design and validation by clinicians, people with lived experience, peers and other key stakeholders of a screening tool and online education support, to help triage legal needs and determine most suitable legal support and services.
  4. Establishment of national network of specialist STI and Blood-Borne Virus-responsive legal services providers: the setting up of standards, accreditation, and continuing legal education, to increase nationwide capability for identifying and eliminating legal barriers to testing and treatment.


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