Law's Role in Promoting Sexual Health in Australia
SEXUAL HEALTH: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH, Meredith Temple-Smith, ed., IP Communications: Australia, 2014
37 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2013 Last revised: 20 Mar 2015
Date Written: July 8, 2013
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.
Keywords: public health law, sexual health, sexually transmissible infections, regulation, human rights, criminal law, communicable diseases
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation