Australia: Three HIV Carriers Held on Risk Fear

Department of Health figures show three HIV-positive people have been detained in Victoria in the past two years for repeatedly failing to change behaviors that put others at risk of infection. One person was detained from January to September 2009, and another two in the year ending September 2008, records show. A department spokesperson stressed that detention is a last resort for those who pose a serious and urgent public health risk.

A review found the department had lost track of people it was monitoring and had failed to act against those who consistently ignored orders. In response, the department in 2008 revised its guidelines for handling such cases and began referring them to the police, said Victoria Chief Health Officer Dr. John Carnie.

In the past two years, the department said it has dealt with 73 infection-risk cases. Counseling and education were delivered to people on 44 occasions, but in many cases this was deemed ineffective. Carnie said 19 legally binding orders were issued, restricting where people could go due to concerns about their behavior, typically barring them from sex venues or other locations known for unprotected sex or needle sharing.

According to Carnie, the warning letters advised the 19 of the "expectation reflected in the law that persons with HIV will either disclose their status to partners prior to sexual activity or have safe sex."

Robert Mitchell, president of the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS, noted that the vast majority of people with the disease do not expose others to the virus. "They do not want other people to go through what they live with," he said.