The case of a 40-year-old man accused of infecting several other men with HIV may lead to a law change, after health officials now reveal they were informed about him several months ago but due to "patient confidentiality" could not inform the police.
Under the Public Health Act, devised decades before HIV was known, health professionals are not required to disclose facts about their patients' HIV status, even if they appear to be putting others at risk.
Health Minister Tony Ryall is scheduled to meet with health officials this week to discuss the possibility of a law change.
The Sunday News says the man had been identified by Auckland District Health Board members as someone who may have been infecting others up to six months ago, and the NZ AIDS Foundation was also notified of concerns about the man last year. "Patient confidentiality" meant police were not advised.
"I think there needs to be more power for legislative agencies to prevent harm to others," the NZAF's Simon Harger-Forde told the NZ Herald.
GayNZ.com informed the police about allegations against the man three weeks ago, after frustrated gay community members concerned about a sluggish official response to their warnings approached the website's reporters. The police Adult Sexual Assault Team immediately began to probe the allegations.
When a young man, alerted by GayNZ.com's coverage of the situation, agreed to lay a formal complaint police were able to launch a full formal investigation and three more young men then come forward to police with formal complaints of their own against him.
The man at the centre of the allegations is now remanded in custody, with name suppression expected to be lifted in three weeks' time.