Guide to Australian HIV Laws and Policies for Healthcare Professionals

Mandatory Testing for HIV

Four jurisdictions across Australia have laws that allow for mandatory BBV testing for individuals whose bodily fluids may have come in contact with Police (or other emergency service personnel in some of the jurisdictions); the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Queensland has laws that allow for mandatory testing of individuals accused of sexual offences and serious assaults.

All these laws share the fallacious premise that appropriate care and support to police or others can be meaningfully informed by the status of the alleged accused. These laws are not based in the science of BBV transmission risk, with spitting covered by the laws. Indeed, spitting was central to the discourse about risk when these laws were first proposed. Concerningly, the rationale for testing is to alleviate any distress police or other emergency service personnel may experience following an incident, even though tests results will likely be misleading and cause additional anxiety, such as where the accused returns a positive result even though there was no risk of BBV transmission.  Alternatively, it could provide a false sense of security; for example, where an accused returns a negative result, in a context in which there was an actual transmission risk, such as when blood to blood contact occurred, but won’t show on a test due to it being during the window period.