A law was hurried through NSW parliament this week that went largely unreported, unnoticed. A law that means anyone with a sexually transmitted infection must take “reasonable precautions” to stop the spread of their condition.
At first, it looked like a victory for HIV positive members of the community, as it spelled an end to mandatory disclosure laws that have long been criticised for being outdated and ineffective at curbing transmission.
Because this new requirement comes with a punishment. Six months behind bars.
So what’s changed?
Section 79 of the NSW Public Health Act. This little bit of legislation previously forced HIV-positive people to disclose their sexual health status with their partner before engaging in any sexual activity. That has now been removed, bringing NSW in line with other states.
This decision has caused concern among some. Liberal MP Peter Phelps told Parliament, “If a person does not accept that disclosure is necessary, they are effectively saying a person can con their way into sex. I do not think that is appropriate.”
Nic Holas, HIV-positive activist, advocate and co-founder of The Institute of Many, can appreciate why people who don’t “live and breathe” this complex issue every day may be concerned. But he insists that law ran counter to best, evidence-based practice.
“The removal of the disclosure requirement has come about because the science around HIV has come leaps and bounds since those awful times when these laws were brought about,” he told Mamamia.