Another Step Toward Equality For People Living With HIV

The Andrews Labor Government has taken another step towards equality for people living with HIV by repealing an outdated, discriminatory law – the only offence of its kind in Australia.

Legislation repealing section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958 today passed the Victorian Parliament – abolishing the specific offence of intentionally infecting another person with a “very serious disease”, defined exclusively to mean HIV.

Until today, this was the only HIV-specific criminal offence in force in any jurisdiction in Australia, singling out HIV and unfairly applying a harsher penalty for its transmission.

The maximum penalty for the offence was 25 years imprisonment, even higher than the 20-year maximum penalty for manslaughter.

The law was never used in the circumstances for which it was originally enacted – the deliberate transmission of HIV by a blood filled syringe.

Intentionally infecting another person with a serious disease is still covered by existing criminal offences, including causing serious injury, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

Further, Victoria has effective measures in place for managing an individual who puts others at risk of acquiring HIV. Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, the Chief Health Officer possesses disease control powers that include placing restrictions on certain behaviours or movements.

The repeal of section 19A supports section 8 of the Human Rights Charter, which states every person is entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination, and the right to equal protection against discrimination.

International bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and have labelled HIV-specific criminal laws as counterproductive to HIV prevention.

The Government thanks Living Positive Victoria, the Victorian AIDS Council, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Criminal Bar Association and Liberty Victoria for their collaborative work in repealing section 19A.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General, Martin Pakula

“This is about reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV – and giving them the equality before the law that they’re entitled to.”

“The Andrews Labor Government is proud to fulfil another election commitment and repeal this outdated, discriminatory law.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Equality, Martin Foley

“I was proud that Labor opposed this law before the election and prouder still to be part of the Government that’s repealing it. I would like to thank the Victorian AIDS Council and Positive Living Victoria, who worked so tirelessly to support this cause.”