Australia: Perth man released on bail

January 8, 2008

A major update on the case of Wepukhulu Zebtek reported on Monday.

His new lawyer has successfully argued that since the woman tested HIV-positive three days following the alleged rape, his client could not have infected the woman. Zebtek is now out on bail.

..his new lawyer Jeremy Noble today won a fresh application after saying the police statement of facts indicated the woman was infected with HIV seven to 14 days before her test. “That would exclude Mr Zebtek as the person that might have infected the complainant,” Mr Noble said.

Of course, no HIV antibody test can pinpoint when someone was infected; but if someone tests HIV antibody positive three days after an alleged transmission event, you can be 100% certain that the infection is much older than three days (since it can take longer than that for a newly infected individual to produce antibodies, at least 30 days on average).

However, the window period between infection and detection can be reduced to about a week if nucleic acid detection assays are used: these are also known as viral load tests, and look for parts of HIV’s genetic material. Since mainstream reporters don’t understand the issues here, there’s no information in any of the reports on the kind of ‘HIV test’ that the police used.

The story is covered in the greatest detail in the online version of the Perth Times.