Victorian government to repeal 19a
Victorian Attorney General Martin Pakula has announced the Victorian Government will introduce legislation to repeal 19a of the crime act - a law that carried a maximum of 25 years jail for anyone deliberately infecting a person with HIV.
The law was originally introduced in the 1990s after a string of robberies where perpetrators threatened victims with blood filled syringes. However people living with HIV said the law unfairly discriminates and stigmatises people living with the virus.
Pakula said 19a was now covered by other laws and as it stands, it creates a stigma around those who have HIV.
"Section 19A of the Crimes Act is an anachronistic law, it unfairly stigmatises people with HIV and creates the impression they're a danger to the community and they're not. This law has been rarely used and it's overdue for repeal."
Pakula said the law had never been used to prosecute an incident of the kind that occured in the 90s and since 19a was introduced other laws have been introduced.
"Now if you threaten someone with a drug-filled syringe for instance, that comes under the definition of serious injury, if you intentionally inflict serious injury.
"That [law] wasn't in place back in 1993, it's just not necessary anymore to have a specific provision with regards to infecting someone with HIV."
Pakula said there were now new laws in place to deal with instances where someone deliberately infects another with the virus.
“In cases where it does happen there are other laws which are in place which can punish those people."
The new bill will be introduced for debate in Victorian Parliament today, it needs the support of both the opposition and crossbenchers to pass both houses.
The move has been welcomed by the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), Living Positive Victoria, and various community leaders.
Chair, HIV Legal Working Group, Paul Kidd said, “Research around the world shows this is the right way to combat HIV. Our organisations strongly believe the Public Health and Wellbeing Act provides the best way to deal with allegations of risky behaviour – keeping the public safe and protecting human rights. We are calling on the Director of Public Prosecutions to adopt prosecutorial guidelines that support that commitment.”
Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, The University of Melbourne and the local co-chair for AIDS2014 said “Reducing HIV transmission is best approached through effective public health policy and community engagement – not through criminalisation and stigma. The repeal of section 19A is a very welcome announcement and an important enduring legacy from AIDS2014 to see an end to stigma and discrimination for all people living with HIV.”
“Now that this legislation has been introduced, we hope it is met with the same bipartisan support we have seen in the Victorian response to HIV/AIDS historically,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth. “Repealing 19A will allow us to combat the stigma experienced by PLHIV and to continue our work in HIV prevention - a vital step forward if we’re to see a future with no new HIV notifications in
Image: Victorian Attorney General Martin Pakula