Mandatory blood borne virus testing: a threat to human rights and no guarantee of safety for workers

The NSW Government is proposing to introduce mandatory blood borne virus testing for people whose bodily fluids come into contact with police, corrections officers, doctors and nurses and other frontline workers. Blood borne viruses (BBVs) include HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

People who refuse to comply with mandatory testing orders would face up to 12 months’ imprisonment.

In PIAC’s view, the proposed framework presents an unacceptable infringement of human rights and undermines Australia’s world leading response to BBVs like HIV. It fails to provide meaningful benefit to workers, while having a range of negative consequences and inadequate safeguards. We have outlined our concerns in a submission to the NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiring into the Bill.

‘The Mandatory Disease Testing Bill is fundamentally misguided. While we support the intention to protect workers from exposure to BBVs, mandatory disease testing cannot provide complete ‘peace of mind’ to affected employees,’ said Alastair Lawrie, Senior Policy Officer.

‘At the same time, any mandatory disease testing framework necessarily involves unacceptable infringements of human rights, including the right to bodily autonomy.’

PIAC has a range of particular concerns with the Bill. This includes that, while it is based on the premise that the worker’s exposure to bodily fluids is the result of a deliberate action, there is no requirement for evidence to establish deliberateness.

There is also no justification for the imposition of mandatory disease testing orders on children aged 14 to 17, while law enforcement officers should not be authorised to use force to allow blood to be taken.

‘We are concerned about the lack of procedural fairness under the Bill for people who are subject to mandatory testing orders,’ Alastair Lawrie added.

‘This includes the fact testing orders can still be enforced while a review is being considered by the Chief Health Officer. Enforcement could be supported by use of force by police or corrections officers, and with possible imprisonment for failure to comply.’

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