ARRESTED FOR HIV
By Samuel Leighton-Dore
A 28 year-old man this afternoon appeared via audio-visual link in Central Local Court, accused of infecting his ex-partner with HIV.
After being detained at Sydney Airport on Sunday night prior to boarding a domestic flight, the man was later charged by Surry Hills police with recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm. His arrest follows an unresolved 2012 investigation.
It was alleged that the accused failed to tell his 33 year-old ex-partner of his HIV positive status – and while details surrounding the case aren’t yet known, it seems the long battle for legislative reform is ongoing, with Australia’s criminal laws still inconsistent to those of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. As ACON fronts up a national campaign to celebrate the very real possibility of ending HIV by 2020, the NSW Health Department’s website states that all HIV positive people must disclose their status to those with whom they intend to have sex, even if protection is being used.
“The allegation involved is one where the alleged victim has contracted a sexually transmitted disease due to the non-disclosure of the defendant of him carrying the disease,” Magistrate Greg Grogin stated in court today. However, this morning’s press release left many in the LGBTQIA community red-faced.
According to Nic Holas, co-founder of HIV advocacy platform The Institute of Many, “The ongoing impact of HIV criminalisation cannot be understated.”
“For HIV positive people, it looms above us like some sword of Damocles, ready to drop after the last bad breakup or one-night stand gone awry,” Holas told Heaps Gay.
“Criminalisation of HIV transmission and exposure is the most aggressive by-product of HIV stigma, and while allowing these cases to be treated as criminal matters, instead of public health matters, we will see reduced rates of testing and the ongoing persecution of people living with HIV.”
As Holas shared publicly on Facebook, “If you are reporting on this issue, please avoid naming any of the parties involved. People’s lives have been ruined by after trial-by-media behaviours and aggressive police activity. There is a difference between malicious intent to pass on HIV, and not disclosing your HIV status for a variety of complex reasons.”
And while the alleged victim, who made a brief appearance in court today, was granted suppressed identity due to “repercussions that could follow” – the accused man’s solicitor, Martin Bernhaut, was denied that same anonymity for his client and formally refused bail, despite fears of future jury bias and endangerment in prison.
We at Heaps Gay have chosen to follow Holas’ lead in not publishing the accused’s name.
The court has been adjourned until Thursday.
ACON – Endinghiv.org.au
The Institute of Many – http://theinstituteofmany.org/