Law's Role in Promoting Sexual Health in Australia

Roger Magnusson

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

July 8, 2013

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/47

This paper explains some of the principle ways in which public health laws seek to influence sexual behaviour and rates of transmission of STIs (sexually transmissible infections), with particular reference to HIV. It then presents two competing models for identifying, evaluating and debating the values inherent in legal and policy responses to STIs in Australia. These are, firstly, the “contain and control” model inherited from historical responses to contagious diseases, and secondly, a “human rights” model, which seeks to implement a harm minimization approach to STIs and assumes a happy alignment, in most circumstances, between the public health interest and individual rights and interests. Elements of both approaches are evident in Australian laws responding to HIV and other STIs. Despite the acknowledged success of Australia’s response to HIV, the rate of new infections is rising, contributing to debate about the appropriate limits of a human rights-focused approach. The paper evaluates, in particular, debates about the persistent criminalization of HIV and STI transmission as a public health tool; the policy challenges posed by risk-seeking behavior; and the challenge to “HIV exceptionalism” posed by the “test and treat” strategy in the United States, which emphasizes opt-out HIV testing and wider use of HIV test data.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: public health law, sexual health, sexually transmissible infections, regulation, human rights, criminal law, communicable diseases

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32

Accepted Paper Series

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Date posted: July 9, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Magnusson, Roger, Law's Role in Promoting Sexual Health in Australia (July 8, 2013). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/47. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2291316

Contact Information

Roger Magnusson (Contact Author)
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )
Faculty of Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
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