Guide to Australian HIV Laws and Policies for Healthcare Professionals

Contact tracing

The Australasian Contract Tracing Guidelines provide a framework for a consistent approach on how to undertake effective contact tracing. It provides practical guidance for healthcare providers undertaking contact tracing, and includes guidance, case studies and patient handouts on HIV, viral hepatitis, other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and HIV-related tuberculosis.

Contact tracing:

  • aims to identify individuals who may be unaware of their HIV infection, so they may benefit from treatment and be provided support to affect sustained behaviour change thereby mitigating ongoing transmission of HIV.
  • must not be associated with blaming the index case, and indeed, the identity of the index case must in most instances remain confidential.
  • is a delicate task and if undertaken inexpertly or insensitively can alienate individuals (and communities) and cause additional anxiety and distress.
  • will differ in every case, so each instance must include assessment of the biological, social, ethical and legal implications of the particular case.
  • is only one facet of HIV prevention mechanisms, and plays a limited role when considered against other prevention measures including preventive education campaigns, voluntary HIV testing, distribution of condoms and safe drug injecting equipment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment as prevention, and the myriad laws and policies which support these and other preventive measures.
  • must not undermine the constructive partnerships between communities at risk, health care professionals, government agencies and research bodies that have proven invaluable in minimising HIV transmission in Australia.

In all jurisdictions, medical practitioners (and sometimes other health care professionals) are tasked with identifying patients’ risk episodes and raising the importance of contact tracing. Patient and health care providers then discuss the most appropriate way to make contact with current and previous sexual partners. Generally, contact tracing may be conducted by the patient or health care worker, with delegation recommended to specialised contact tracing officers in certain circumstances, including instances when the health care worker is unable to undertake contact tracing due to time restrictions (see overview of contact tracing state-based laws and guidelines below).

For more details on considerations for selecting the most appropriate method of contract tracing, check the Australian Contact Tracing Manual website

State based contact tracing laws and guidelines are listed below: