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Report: Police training on HIV ‘outdated and stigmatising’

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  1. When I was in the police I was alarmed that on internal computer systems relating to intelligence of those known to the police, alongside other “markers” to highlight concerns to police eg violent, weapons, escaper etc could appear “disease”. The disease marker was to refer to HIV, and was based on rumour or information not necessarily fact. This was stigmatising – I know they talked about removing it – but I have no idea if they did or not.

    1. I am gob smacked – Stu – I was about to write exactly the same comment (less articulately) – I have too many family members serving in the Job and in many forces outside London these marker codes still exist – and the ‘Gayer’ the suspect the more likely the police are to code them Diseased – (assuming they must be positive)

      Given that even teenagers know that saliva cannot transmit HIV or any fluid outside the body – Why oh Why are the police not kept up to date – from what I have discovered the training for such subjects in Optional and those in charge do not insist on this being dealt with. A bit like the Dept of Health stopping funding to NAT THT and others.

      Unlike the British public HIV does not Discriminate.

      1. When I questioned this with one of my supervisotrs – they thought I was questioning the whole principal of markers on the system. I was not. I don’t think anyone would question the right of the police service to protect their staff by having a quick reference to issues such as “violent”, “escaper”, “weapons”, “conceals items” etc etc that may need to be known quickly.

        My concern, at the time, was not even about recording HIV in police records – provided it was done sensitvely, appropriately and factually (although I do not think this is necessary – unless relevant to an individual case!). My concern was that information, whcih should not be stored on central systems was being stored and communciated over police radios – and which almost all police staff would have access to. To worsen that, the information being stored was not necessarily based on fact.

        Reinforcing stigma is wrong.

        The only times I feel it is appropriate for police to store information about HIV status of an

        1. individual is if either a) they are in custody and the medics (not police) need to be aware of the clinicial status of the individual – if the individual chooses to share that information. It should not make its way to central police information systems; or b) if its clearly a strong factor in a criminal case eg assault with infected blood in a syrigne (very very rare cases)

          1. What is outdated and frankly offensive is that these services still wrongly believe HIV is transmitted as easily as other STIs – Unless the police are having unprotected sex with those in custody then there is no HIV risk. End of.

          2. Absolutely.

            There is highly unlikely to be a risk.

            I do rememebr being stabbed with a used hypodermic needle when arresting an IV drug user.

            Whilst, I knew the risk was minimal – I was still stressed and anxious.

            However, it did not change my approach to anyone – other than those with hypodermics in their possession (who I was more wary of).

            Unfortunately, soem of my ex-colleagues did not use common sense in this regard.

    2. Spanner1960 18 Jun 2012, 3:07pm

      I can understand your concerns, but it’s not like this is official documentation, it is purely for risk assessment. If you know somebody is an IV drug user, then you should be aware there may be needles around; that doesn’t mean they are going to lunge at you with a used hypodermic at the first opportunity.

      Equally, if somebody is apparently gay, then there is a higher than normal risk they may be HIV+. The reports might be totally unfounded, but better to go with the concept that forewarned is forearmed.

      1. Jock S. Trap 18 Jun 2012, 4:43pm

        Thats a nasty negative stereotype and only proves you read and believe to much in the mainstream press like the Daily Mail.

        It is not right to treat all the same, it is insulting. It’s a bit like treating all guilty even if one person does the crime. Mostly it is most unprofessional and I for one would fight such discrimination esp if those in authority cannot keep up to date with the facts.

        Oh and Spanner… just so you know you can’t get HIV just from talking to someone, nor holding hands nor… oh just get educated!

        1. Spanner1960 19 Jun 2012, 12:07am

          Is that I was the only one on here to post the real methods of transmission?

          Don’t treat me like some fcking schoolboy.
          I have lost enough friends to this disease to understand its implications.

  2. Jock S. Trap 18 Jun 2012, 11:58am

    It has to be extremely important that anyone who has any dealings with the public first had is trained regularly on the facts as they present themselves up to date so that fear and stigma doesn’t result in any job.

    There is absolutely no excuse to have out of date misconceptions especially about things that are important in day to day life that makes anyone feel victimised.

    Another area which could do with the most important overhaul of facts concerning HIV is the mainstream media which tends to be disgraceful in its approach to HIV patients.

    It’s 2012 and the is no excuse for any organisation to be without the proper facts to be able to deal with situations properly and efectively.

  3. Craig Denney 18 Jun 2012, 12:26pm

    I’ve been campaigning since 2004 for the Police to change a little procedure and the Police are not interested at all.

    So it’s nice to see the National AIDS Trust having a go with another homophobic procedure.

    Normally these reports never get into the public domain, so it looks like to me that the Police are refusing to do anything and now the National AIDS Trust has contacted the Press in desperation?

    It wont do any good.

    1. This is not a homophobic procedure that would suggest only GAYs are at risk of HIV transmission – This is a issue of uninformed proffessionals unable or unwilling to re-train to bring their proceedures up to date.

  4. Robert in S. Kensington 18 Jun 2012, 1:50pm

    What none of the ignoramuses seem to be unaware of is that once HIV is exposed to the air, it dies instantly. The ignorance is astounding in the 21st century.

    1. Outside the body HIV deteriorates rapidly – not instantly – It’s not like vampires and sunlight!

  5. NAT only seemed to have tackled ,and rightly so,the misconception over HIV transmission but it also needs to deal with the issue of how the Police have on system a ‘disease’ marker for recognising someone ,presumeably with HIV. Very concerning to read about this ‘marker’ and begs the question why it is there in the first place? Is it used to only define a HIV positive person? What about the more infectious Hepatitus strain,e-coli,etc Internal training on transmission is one thing but it seems the Police DO have access to private medical information on individuals. NAT should be asking – Who is authorising this information exchange? and where is the source of this information coming from?

  6. Spanner1960 18 Jun 2012, 3:04pm

    It doesn’t take a Bible-thick manual to learn the basic facts. HIV can be transmitted in only one of four ways:
    1.Blood
    2. Semen
    3. Vaginal fluid
    4. Breast Milk.

    On top of that, the virus is actually incredibly fragile and cannot survive long out of the body, so the risks of cross infection in most police work are minimal.

    1. The only two scenarios I can contemplate where it becomes relevant are:
      a) An unusual incident such as where someone has blood in a hypodermic syringe and they seek to use it to threaten someone in a robbery etc – rare incident but relevant about the suspects status in terms of prosecution
      b) The rare scenario where in a violent disturbance there is injury to both suspect and police officer and blood comes into contact. Unlikely to result in transmission but worthy of the officer being tested and counselled.

      In example a) the issue is not relevant to the intelligence database – purely to the semantics of the prosecution case and is for factual basis that the offender themselves first articulated. Info about status should not be stored anywhere other than the proescution case papers. In example b) the risk is remote, the offender legally is free to decide whether or not to disclose status or give blood to assist in the officers testing. The risk probably would not have been

    2. mitigated by any marker on the police computer system – as it was probably violent fairly early in police attendance (from experience) and this there is little (if any) justification for a marker on the police system.

      Its clear more education is needs in the reality of risks.

      Education was given by clinical staff when I was in the police but it has to be said the attitude amongst many of my ex-colleagues was “they say its not a risk, but there is no way I am taking any chance”. Ignorant, unwilling to listen and stigmatising.

      It needs to be dealt with and is common sense!

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