Police force accused of scaremongering about HIV after introduction of spit guards
A police force has been accused of scaremongering about HIV after it said it would introduce spit guards so that its officers could reduce the risk of being infected by bloodborne disease.
Avon and Somerset police said that they are introducing ‘spit guards’ at the beginning of 2018 in order to prevent being put at risk of HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis, reports The Guardian.
The spit guards, which are tight mesh hoods officers can pull over the heads of resisting suspects to stop them from spitting or biting.
“Each day we face being spat at, putting us at risk of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis and the degrading assault can have a lasting psychological impact,” said Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Cullen.
The force said that they are bringing the guards into action after they observed a drunk woman with hepatitis C attack a paramedic.
“She was continually spitting, spit that was bloody. It was disgusting; she was trying to infect us,” said Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Cullen to The Guardian.
Officers donned riot gear to protect themselves during the incident.
“After the shift we all went home to our kids wondering what we were taking home,” he added.
But medical professionals have said that both hepatitis C and HIV cannot be passed through spit.
“HIV is irrelevant to the debate about spit hoods because spitting simply is not an HIV transmission route,” said Kath Smithson, the director of policy at the National Aids Trust, to The Guardian.
“In the history of the epidemic, there has never been a case of HIV being passed on through spitting, even when the spit contains blood.”
Spit guards are currently used by 25 forces in the UK, but they have been criticised by human rights groups for inciting trauma.