An Australian police association head is under fire after incorrectly suggesting that HIV can be transmitted by spitting.
The incorrect claim from Police Association of New South Wales president Tony King was made in the Australian Daily Telegraph, in an article which conflated AIDS with HIV.
In the piece, King called for new powers to put people through mandatory HIV tests, citing a case where two officers were assaulted by a detainee.
Police association chief called for mandatory HIV testing powers
He said: “These two officers and their families now face an incredibly anxious wait to have to find out whether they’ve been infected with anything.
“What those officers and their families are going through right now is unimaginable.
“Police are police spat on, bitten and attacked with needles. When that happens, we’re forced to endure torturously long wait times simply because the government hasn’t bothered to fix the red tape that would ease the pain of officers.”
“It’s time for the NSW Government to act to on the disgusting practice of exposing police officers to bodily fluids and diseases.”
The comments were challenged by campaigners from HIV charity ACON, who pointed out that it is not possible to transmit HIV through spitting.
Campaigners hit out at ‘outdated misconceptions’ about HIV
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill hit out at the calls for “punitive laws based on outdated misconceptions and myths about HIV,” which he says “perpetuates stigma and discrimination” about HIV.
He said: “In the case of HIV, it is not transmissible through saliva. There have been no cases of saliva being a transmission route for HIV in Australia.”
Parkhill added: “We agree they must be protected as much as is reasonably possible in a high-level occupational risk environment, but the proposal by the NSW Police Association to give police the power to mandatorily test offenders is very concerning and lacks an evidence base.
“The premise of mandatory testing is based on outdated, 30-year old notions of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and other BBV (blood-borne virus) transmission risk.”
He added: “We condemn the inflammatory language throughout the article, such as the use of AIDS when referring to HIV.
“Sensational reporting fuels stigma experienced by people living with HIV, perpetuates outdated myths and stereotypes, increases social isolation among communities affected by HIV and undermines HIV prevention efforts.”
A police force in the UK previously came under fire after rolling out ‘spit guards’ for detainees, claiming they prevent the risk of HIV transmission. Campaigners pointed out there is no risk of HIV transmission from spitting.