Sex partners traceable under proposed law

People with sexually transmitted infections could be forced to disclose their sexual histories to public health officers under a new law introduced to Parliament this week.

The Health (Protection) Amendment Bill passed its first reading on Thursday. The bill would give greater powers to public health officers and ban the use of tanning beds for under-18s.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the measures were to better protect the public from the risk of infectious diseases.

The bill would make it an offence to not comply with "contact tracers", health officials whose role was to determine who a person with a transmissible disease had been in contact with and whether they could have contracted the disease too.

Coleman said voluntary compliance with health officials was the preferred option but provisions in the bill allowed for incremental interventions. "Currently contact tracing is voluntary," he said. "Some people do not co-operate."

The bill also provides for the District Court to make public health orders which could see individuals detained in hospitals, prevented from working or barred from using public transport.

As well, it places HIV, gonorrhea and syphilis on the list of notifiable diseases, meaning more information about cases would be collected by health authorities.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said it was interesting that information wasn't already collected on what were "some very old infectious diseases in syphilis and gonorrhoea".

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said there could be some adverse impacts around compulsory contact tracing. "If someone knows that they may be required to reveal who their sexual contacts have been, they may not present for treatment."

Compulsory contact tracing restricted the rights of the person being asked to disclose details such as their previous sexual partners, Hague said.

The bill has been referred to the health select committee.

The Dominion Post