7 August 2018, Australia
On Saturday the Courier Mail newspaper reported that a Brisbane man had been charged with serious assault and obstructing police after an incident in which the man allegedly claimed he was HIV-positive before spitting in the face of a security guard. Facing the Brisbane Magistrates court on Saturday, the man’s charge was upgraded to assault occasioning bodily harm after the court heard the man’s claim about his HIV status. He has also been ordered to undertake testing.
HIV is not transmitted by spitting and there has been no case of transmission of HIV from having been spat upon. ASHM does not endorse or support HIV testing of an individual because they have been spat upon by a person with HIV or a person of unknown HIV status.
While incidents like this are upsetting and spitting is a deeply offensive act, responses should be based on medical evidence rather than perpetuating common myths about how HIV and other blood-borne viruses are transmitted. These myths heighten anxiety about the possibility of contracting HIV, despite the implausible risk involved.
Many of the priority populations for blood-borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C (including gay men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) already experience stigma and discrimination. Misinformation about how these viruses are transmitted compounds that stigma and constrains the ability of health services to target and engage people at risk.