Australia: HIV is a public health issue not a crime say advocates

Advocates for people living with HIV and sex worker support organisations have condemned the arrest and subsequent media stigmatisation of a trans person living with HIV who was also a sex worker in WA. The trans woman was arrested by Sydney police to face charges of grievous bodily harm after allegations of HIV transmission were raised. HIV advocates suggest the move was counterproductive to the strategic plan to end HIV transmissions by 2020 as it compounded unfounded fears surrounding the virus and further stigmatised people living with HIV.  

Janelle Fawkes, CEO Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association says: “The involvement of money in sexual transactions does not increase the risk of HIV transmission. Sex workers with HIV can routinely exchange sex for money without putting themselves, or their clients, at risk. Any suggestion that occupation or gender identity is somehow responsible for HIV transmission is extremely naïve.”

Cameron Cox suggests criminalising HIV transmission not only undermines the notion of shared responsibility to prevent HIV, it creates stigma and discourages people from being tested. Cox also highlighted the important role sex workers had in Australia’s response to HIV: “To date there has not been one documented case of HIV transmission having ever been recorded in a sex work setting.” 

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