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"HIV is a virus not a crime" Australian HIV Orgs Respond, 19 September 2008

"Australian HIV Organisations today demand decriminalisation of HIV, including sex work," Janelle Fawkes, CEO Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association said today.

The recent XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico (1) and the 20th Annual Australasian Society for HIV Medicine Conference in Perth have renewed the international focus on effective HIV prevention and the important role of human rights. There is more evidence now than ever regarding HIV transmission, impact and effective prevention programs.

Criminalisation is not and has never been an effective public health response to HIV prevention. It does not reduce HIV transmission – and the resulting stigma and discrimination increase barriers to effective health promotion. Current laws in certain Australian jurisdictions counteract the promotion of condoms, lubricant and shared responsibility, and the uptake of HIV testing and treatment, and therefore undermine effective public health.

HIV positive people live with full human rights that confirm their sexuality and relationships.

Australia has clear National Guidelines that identify a comprehensive process across government, community and health services to respond effectively in the rare cases where an individual is placed at risk of HIV, with legal action as a last resort.

Therefore we declare that:

  • Laws that criminalise HIV positive people, including sex workers, are inconsistent with current good public health practice and should be repealed;
  • National Guidelines have been agreed. Government, community and health services must now implement these agreed guidelines;

Signatories available for media comment:

  • Ms Janelle Fawkes, Chief Executive Officer, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
  • Mr Robert Mitchell, President, National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS
  • Mr Mike Kennedy, Executive Director, Victorian AIDS Council / Gay Men's Health Centre

Other signatories:

  • Dr Graham Brown, President, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations
  • Ms Trish Langdon, Executive Director, Western Australian AIDS Council
  • Stevie Clayton, Chief Executive Officer, AIDS Council of NSW
  • Professor Basil Donovan, Professor of Sexual Health, National Centre in HIV Epidemiology & Clinical Research, UNSW
  • Darren Russell, President, Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Professor Marian Pitts, Director, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
  • Professor John de Wit, Director, National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of NSW
  • Annie Madden, Executive Officer, Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL)

Signed 19th September, 2008

Link to statement on NAPWA website

(1) Edwin Cameron, Judge on the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa, XVII International AIDS Conference