Home Office will be asked to heed warning on ‘outdated’ police resources on HIV

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Home Office is to be asked to ensure police resources on HIV accurately reflect current knowledge of the virus and its routes of transmission.

A National AIDS Trust analysis of several constabularies’ materials and teaching about HIV risks released yesterday revealed procedures were often based on out-dated or unfounded concerns regarding transmission, which it said could fuel ‘scaremongering’ and ‘mistreatment’ for people living with the virus.

The review found officers were given HIV tests needlessly, wasting resources and perpetuating ignorance, and raised concerns over advice that HIV positive people in custody should be segregated.

NAT said it would provide feedback to the individual constabularies reviewed and draw up best practice guidelines for police forces nationally. The Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Policy Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equality, Tom Brake MP said he would write to Home Secretary Theresa May to say police should be given updated information as a matter of urgency.

He said today: “Unfounded fears and misconceptions around HIV continue to fuel discrimination. Given that HIV is the disease that police officers worry most about contracting, it is a big problem that current guidance and policies on HIV are so woefully out-of-date.

“Some of the misconceptions highlighted by the National AIDS Trust have been stamped out in most other areas of life. With continuously improving treatment available everywhere, HIV is no longer the disease that fed so many scare stories in the 1980s.

“The materials the police use to educate officers and staff about HIV need to be updated as a matter of urgency and I will raise this issue with the Home Secretary. Only with accurate information will we be able to prevent discrimination and degrading treatment of HIV positive people who come in contact with the police.”

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT said: “We are really pleased to see the findings of this report being taken seriously and we hope this will eventually lead to fundamental changes in the way HIV, and attitude to HIV risk, is dealt with across national police services.”

To read the report in full, click here.