The Victorian Government announced at the 20th International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne in July 2014 that it would amend laws which criminalise the intentional transmission of HIV.
Victorian Health Minister, David Davis, confirmed that the government was committed to amending Section 19A of the Victorian Crimes Act to ensure that it is non-discriminatory. According to the Act, it is a criminal offence to intentionally transmit a "very serious disease" to another person. A "very serious disease" is exclusively defined to mean the HIV virus and the offence carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
This law is the only HIV-specific criminal law in Australia and has been rarely prosecuted.
The Victorian AIDS Council Chief Executive, Simon Ruth, considers that this law has a number of negative impacts, including creating stigma and casting people living with HIV as a community which places the general community at risk of harm and injury. Other HIV activists say these types of laws discourage HIV-positive individuals from disclosing their status, and Michael Kirby commented during the conference that such laws are counter-productive to public health goals.
Whilst the announcement has been welcomed, the government is being urged to not only review and amend the law but to repeal it entirely. The Law Institute of Victoria considers that simply removing the reference to HIV and/or expanding that particular section to include additional 'very serious diseases' would not adequately remedy its concerns about the law as it stands currently.
Simon Ruth has also raised concerns that simply converting the wording of this law into something more general that includes other infectious diseases would be a step in the wrong direction. Instead, it has been suggested that such offences be prosecuted under a different section of the Act which prohibits intentionally causing serious injury to another person.
The Conference also saw all of Australia's Health Ministers agree to the AIDS 2014 Legacy Statement, which commits each of the states and territories to working towards the virtual elimination of new Australian HIV transmissions by 2020.