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US: Anti-criminalisation advocates worried about use of molecular surveillance to identify transmission clusters
Will the Genetic Analysis–Based HIV Surveillance Safeguard Privacy?
The CDC is beginning to use molecular surveillance of HIV to identify transmission clusters, which has some privacy advocates concerned.
The future of the U.S. public health system’s efforts to track and respond to the spread of HIV is called molecular surveillance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently begun scaling up a program to analyze genetic sequencing of newly identified cases of the virus so as to identify transmission clusters: groups of people who share strains of HIV so genetically similar that the virus likely passed among them.
Such a high-tech ability to characterize HIV’s pathway through sexual or injection-drug-use networks could open the door for local health departments to seek out individuals in such transmission webs or at risk of joining one so as to provide them tailored HIV care and treatment or prevention services.
The epidemic-battling prospects of this dawning method of epidemic surveillance notwithstanding, an ad hoc group of HIV advocates has begun to raise concerns about what they see as the potential for the misuse of personal information gleaned from the process.
Additionally, advocates point to the patchwork of laws that, depending on the state, make it a crime for people living with the virus not to disclose their HIV status, to potentially expose someone to the virus, or to transmit the virus to another individual during sex or the sharing of drug paraphernalia. At least in theory, a criminal case based on an alleged violation of such a law could prompt a subpoena for information from molecular surveillance records and ultimately allow such data to enter a court record.
Molecular HIV surveillance, or MHS, “provides an opportunity to help address growing HIV disparities but only if it is implemented responsibly and in collaboration and partnership with communities affected by and living with HIV,” says Amy Killelea, JD, director of health systems integration at NASTAD (National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors). “Because MHS activities are rolling out in states with HIV criminal transmission statutes in place, it is important for health departments, providers and anyone charged with safeguarding this data to follow procedures for prohibiting or limiting its release.”
How molecular HIV surveillance works
When an individual tests positive for HIV and connects to medical care for the virus, his or her clinician typically orders drug resistance testing, sending a blood sample to a lab that genetically sequences the virus. The results are sent to the clinician and to the local health department. Then, depending on the state, the findings may be stripped of information connecting them to a named individual and sent from the health department to the CDC for further analysis. Looking at diagnoses from the previous three years, investigators at the federal agency will search for genetic matches among these de-identified cases of the virus—HIV strains that have no more than a 0.5 percent variation, or genetic distance, between them.
The CDC is in especially hot pursuit of rapidly growing HIV transmission clusters, which the agency defines as a collection of genetically linked cases of which at least five were diagnosed within the most recent 12-month period. After identifying such a cluster, the CDC will report its findings to the health department that has jurisdiction over the majority of the related cases of the virus.
That health department may then take action, for example, by engaging in a practice known as HIV partner services: contacting members of the transmission cluster and asking for their help in tracking down others in their sexual or drug-sharing network who may have been exposed to HIV in order to urge them to get tested for the virus.
Among those individuals who test negative, health departments have an opportunity to promote HIV risk reduction, such as by prompting them to get on Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Those who test positive will ideally receive a prescription to antiretrovirals (ARVs) in short order. Immediate HIV treatment protects their health and, provided ARVs reduce their viral load to an undetectable level, renders them essentially unable to transmit the virus.
Together, PrEP and HIV treatment use among those engaging in high-risk practices can help cut the links in transmission chains and possibly avert numerous downstream infections.
On a wider scale, health departments can draw upon the findings from their investigations of transmission clusters to determine where they are coming up short in promoting HIV prevention and treatment services. They can also identify societal patterns that are facilitating HIV transmission—for example, if a lack of health care access among a particularly disenfranchised population is associated with an increased transmission rate among such individuals.
At the February 2018 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston, CDC epidemiologist Anne Marie France, PhD, MPH, presented a report on the agency’s recent efforts to identify molecular clusters, depicting this technology as a prime tool for helping to determine where and among whom the virus is rapidly transmitting. The agency, she said, was recently able to identify 60 rapid transmission clusters, which included five to 42 individuals, among whom the virus was transmitted at a rate 11 times greater than that of the general population.
The members of these clusters were disproportionately men who have sex with men, in particular young Latino MSM. Gathering such demographic information is especially vital as the CDC tries to make sense of why, in the MSM population, Latinos have seen a rising HIV transmission rate in recent years while the infection rate has leveled off among their Black counterparts and continued a long decline among white MSM.
The effort to safeguard private information
The late 1990s saw the beginning of a long-running debate about the potential costs of switching to a name-based system of reporting HIV test results, in which the names of people diagnosed with the virus were kept on file by state health departments. At the time, a broad swath of advocates expressed grave concerns that that this form of surveillance would lead to privacy violations and scare people away from testing for the virus.
By and large, such fears were not borne out during the more than a decade it took for every state to switch over to name-based reporting. Instead, this recordkeeping transition proved vital in the CDC’s effort to comprehensively track the epidemic nationwide and to provide better-tailored responses.
Now HIV advocates have staked a similarly critical stance with regard to molecular HIV surveillance: that the technology’s use may lead to privacy violations and also deter people who are concerned about such outcomes from getting tested.
According to the CDC, the Public Health Service Act governs the privacy of information reported through the agency’s National HIV Surveillance System, forbidding its release for non-public-health purposes. This protection remains in effect in perpetuity, even after an individual’s death.
In response to POZ’s inquiries about molecular HIV surveillance, a CDC spokesperson stated in an email: “As a condition of funding [from the federal agency], state and city health departments must comply with strict CDC standards for HIV data security, including multiple requirements for encryption of electronic data, physical security, limited access, [personnel] training and penalties if procedures aren’t followed.”
For example, CDC policy holds that only authorized individuals should have access to information that identifies people included in molecular HIV surveillance analyses. Health agencies should print out such information only when necessary, and such hard copies should be kept under lock and key, not taken out of the health department office and shredded when they’re no longer in use.
As for the matter of how such surveillance may affect individuals’ attitudes toward getting tested for HIV, the CDC relayed to POZ findings from a recent survey of young adults never tested for the virus. When asked their main reasons for not being screened, 70 percent reported they didn’t see themselves as at risk for HIV and 20 percent said they were never offered a test. The implication is that for most people, privacy concerns may not be a major factor affecting their willingness to get tested.
Community engagement and response
In the eyes of its critics, the CDC has not properly reached out to members of the HIV community for input about the scale-up of molecular surveillance.
“I see how [molecular surveillance] could be beneficial for HIV prevention strategies in certain circumstances,” says Sean Strub, POZ’s founder and former publisher and the executive director of the Sero Project, a nonprofit that focuses on reforming HIV criminalization statutes. “But before [molecular surveillance is] utilized, the privacy and potential for abuse concerns need to be addressed in partnership with community activists.”
Addressing the CDC’s recent actions as it has pushed the rollout of molecular surveillance, David Evans, the interim executive director of Project Inform in San Francisco, says, “Meaningful engagement [by the CDC] with the communities most vulnerable to HIV has been sporadic and ineffective or completely absent in many geographic locations already. And I have yet to see concrete plans to ensure this takes place at the local, state and federal level going into the future.”
Evans and Strub were among the attendees of a recent daylong meeting about molecular HIV surveillance convened by Georgetown Law School in Washington, DC. The confab, which included CDC representatives, heard concerns that partner services programs may wind up violating individuals’ privacy, including potentially sharing their sexual orientation, as outreach workers engage in partner services efforts.
“Doing partner services successfully now takes a finesse that we have probably not developed in the staff across the country who are doing this work,” says another of the meeting’s attendees, Eve D. Mokotoff, MPH, director of HIV Counts in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which provides guidance on HIV surveillance issues nationally and internationally. “I am concerned that our country’s partner services workforce does not have the sensitivity, skill and tools needed to make them a welcome member of our prevention efforts. They too often offend clients, out them to others or otherwise are ineffective.”
Mokotoff calls for improved education of such frontline public health staff in order to ensure the highest level of professionalism, discretion and sensitivity.
As for the possibility that information acquired via molecular surveillance could be used in a criminal trial, Killelea notes the federal and state data privacy and security laws that limit health departments’ release of data except in narrow circumstances.
“This is particularly important when it comes to the release of surveillance data for law enforcement purposes,” Killelea wrote in an email, “i.e., as a result of a court order or subpoena in the course of a prosecution under a state HIV criminal transmission statute.”
“It’s important to note,” Killelea added, “that state laws vary on whether a subpoena or court order is required for health departments to release surveillance data and judges don’t necessarily need to approve a subpoena.”
A likely safeguard, Killelea says, protecting molecular surveillance information from entering a trial is that for a judge to approve a subpoena such data would have to be able to prove the direction of HIV infection—who infected whom—which in most cases the technology cannot determine. Consequently, the release of this sort of information in a courtroom setting could be “rare or nonexistent,” according to Killelea. But as this surveillance technology advances, the directionality of infection could become provable, thus undermining such a legal safeguard.
In response to such legal concerns, the CDC told POZ that the agency has “urged all state and local [health department] programs to review their own laws and policies for protection of data and to work with local policymakers to enhance protections as needed.”
In an effort to guide such state-level policy revisions, the CDC has on hand a piece of model legislation called the Model State Public Health Privacy Act. And while the federal health agency is not actively engaging in an effort to change HIV criminalization statutes, a chief document on its website regarding molecular HIV surveillance suggests that states and local jurisdictions should “consider evaluating any laws that criminalize HIV transmission” as a part of a larger effort to “minimize the risk that molecular surveillance data will be misused or misinterpreted.”
Benjamin Ryan is POZ’s editor at large, responsible for HIV science reporting. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, New York, The Nation, The Atlantic, The Marshall Project, The Village Voice, Quartz, Out and The Advocate. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter and at benryan.net.
Published in POZ on August 13, 2018
Tajikistan: Sex worker sentenced to one year in prison for alleged HIV transmission
The Shaartuz District Court sentenced a sex worker who infected 10 men with HIV to one year of imprisonment. (Google translation – For original article in Russian, scroll down).
The verdict was announced last week. The woman, whose name is not disclosed, but the initials AZ, are indicated, was accused of deliberately infecting several of her clients.
In the court of Shartuz district on August 7, Radio Ozodi reported that A.Z. repented in court and stated that she would no longer engage in prostitution, so the court, taking into account these nuances, as well as the difficult economic situation of the defendant’s family, decided to soften the verdict against her.
Umed Karimzoda, the prosecutor of Shaartuz district, said on August 7 in an interview with Radio Ozodi that the state prosecutor demanded to sentence the woman to 2 years of imprisonment, but the court, taking into account the repentance of the defendant, sentenced her to 1 year of imprisonment. “The court considered the case, charged with A.Z. the article provides for punishment in the form of 2 to 5 years imprisonment, but the court took into account the repentance of the defendant, “said Karimzoda.
A.Z. was found guilty under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan “Infection with HIV”. According to this article, “the infection of another person with HIV infection by a person who knew about the presence of this virus is punishable by imprisonment for a period of two to five years, and the deliberate infecting of two or more persons with imprisonment for a term of five to ten years” .
According to some lawyers, the fact that a woman infected HIV not one or two, but 10 men, could serve to bring severe punishment to AZ.
Since the date of the verdict, 10 days have not passed yet, so the relatives of A.Z. and her lawyer can appeal the verdict to a higher court.
Convicted of 30 years, she has two children. After the divorce she began to engage in commercial sex and from 2014 she is registered with the local HIV center . Despite the identification of HIV, she continued to provide intimate services. Some of her customers were set up by calls and messages on her phone. Among the clients of the priestess of love were mostly young unmarried boys and several family men. All of them are residents of the Shaartuz district.
Sayido Murtazoev, doctor of the Center for HIV / AIDS of Khatlon region, confirmed that the woman is registered with them.
This is the first time that data on the prosecution of a person guilty of mass infection have been announced. Previously, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that among almost a hundred detained “priestesses of love” in different raids, three women with HIV infection were identified. What specific measures were taken regarding them were not reported.
In the Khatlon region 2 863 HIV-positive people were registered, 900 of them were women. Most of them are injecting drug users and sex workers.
Published in Ozodi on August 7,2018
Секс-работница, заразившая ВИЧ десяти мужчин, получила 1 год заключения
Суд Шаартузского района приговорил секс-работницу, заразившую ВИЧ-инфекцией 10 мужчин, к одному году лишения свободы.
Приговор был оглашен на минувшей неделе. Женщина, имя которой не разглашается, но указаны инициалы А.З., обвинялась в намеренном инфицировании нескольких своих клиентов.
В суде Шаартузского района 7 августа сообщили Радио Озоди, что А.З. раскаялась в суде и заявила, что больше не будет заниматься проституцией, поэтому суд, приняв во внимание эти нюансы, а также тяжелое экономическое положение семьи подсудимой, решил смягчить приговор в ее отношении.
Умед Каримзода, прокурор Шаартузского района, сказал 7 августа в беседе с Радио Озоди, что гособвинитель потребовал приговорить женщину к 2 годам заключения, но суд приняв во внимание раскаяние подсудимой, приговорил ее к 1 году лишения свободы. «Суд рассмотрел дело, инкриминируемая А.З. статья предусматривает наказание в виде от 2 до 5 лет заключения, но суд принял во внимание раскаяние подсудимой», – сказал Каримзода.
А.З. признана виновной по статье 125 УК Таджикистана “Заражение ВИЧ-инфекцией”. Согласно этой статьи, “заражение другого лица ВИЧ-инфекцией лицом, знавшим о наличии у себя этого вируса, наказывается лишением свободы на срок от двух до пяти лет, а умышленное заражение двух или более лиц – лишением свободы на срок от пяти до десяти лет”.
По мнению некоторых юристов, одно то, что женщина заразила ВИЧ не одного-двух, а 10 мужчин, могло служить для вынесения сурового наказания А.З.
Со дня вынесения приговора еще не прошло 10 дней, поэтому родные А.З. и ее адвокат могут обжаловать приговор в вышестоящей судебной инстанции.
Осужденной 30 лет, у нее двое детей. После развода она стала заниматься коммерческим сексом и с 2014 года состоит на учете местного центра по борьбе с ВИЧ/СПИД. Несмотря на выявление ВИЧ, она продолжала предоставлять интимные услуги. Некоторые ее клиенты были установлены по звонкам и сообщениям на ее телефон. Среди клиентов жрицы любви были в основном молодые неженатые парни и несколько семейных мужчин. Все они – жители Шаартузского района.
Сайидо Муртазоев, врач Центра по борьбе с ВИЧ/СПИД Хатлонской области подтвердил, что женщина находится у них на учете.
Это первый случай, когда оглашаются данные по привлечению к ответственности лица, виновного в массовом заражении. Ранее МВД сообщало, что среди почти сотни задержанных “жриц любви” в разных рейдах, были установлены три женщины с ВИЧ-инфекцией. Какие конкретно меры были предприняты относительно них, не сообщалось.
В Хатлонской области зарегистрировано 2 тыс 863 лиц – носителей ВИЧ, 900 из них – женщины. Большая часть – это потребители инъекционных наркотиков и работницы коммерческого секса.
Russia: Russian Human Rights Council favors criminal punishment over education for HIV denialism, thought to be affecting minors’ HIV care
Russian Human Rights Council proposes criminal penalty for HIV denialism
MOSCOW, August 7 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights has recommended the government to consider imposition of criminal punishment for propaganda of HIV denialism, a statement released on the advisory body’s website reads.
According to the Human Rights Council, HIV denialism is one of the main problems hindering enhancement of the disease control efficiency and primarily affecting minors.
Other problems in this field include defects in HIV laboratory tests conducted in unspecialized organizations, faults in statistical recording and absence of regulation of a work permit procedure for health care workers in the event of HI virus detection, the statement reads.
Human rights advocates recommended the Health Ministry to adopt corresponding legislation for the solution of these issues.
Published in RAPSI on August
Australia: Queensland police upgrades charges against man accused of spitting at security guard because of suggested HIV
Man’s spitting assault charges upgraded because he said he has HIV
Advocates for people living with HIV and health experts have raised concern over Queensland police upgrading charges against a man charged with assault because he suggested he might have HIV.
A man allegedly got in an altercation with a security guard at Fortitude Valley pub and is accused of spitting in the face of the security guard and claiming that he was living with HIV.
According to the Courier Mail Stephen John Gallagher, 50, appeared in a Brisbane Court on Saturday charged with serious assault following the alleged incident at the Brisbane Hotel on Friday night.
Gallagher was charged with serious assault and obstructing the police after the incident that occurred at The Royal George Hotel on Brunswich Street.
The charge was upgraded to Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm during the hearing when the court heard that Gallagher had allegedly spat at the bouncer and claimed that he was living with HIV.
Via his legal aid lawyer, Gallagher reportedly told the court that he had not been diagnosed with HIV. The court ordered that he undertake a HIV test to prove that he is not carrying the virus. The case will return to court on August 14th.
Advocates for people living with HIV have expressed an alarm over the case, noting that there is no scientific evidence showing that HIV can be transmitted via saliva.
Last month the leading scientists in the area of HIV research issued a consensus statement highlighting the negative effect the criminalisation of HIV has on combating the virus and the stigma faced by people living with it.
The statement stresses several points including that there is no possibility of HIV transmission via contact with the saliva of an HIV-positive person, including through kissing, biting or spitting.
Concern has also been raised about the Courier Mail’s reporting of the incident. The report described people living with HIV as being “infected” and was accompanied by a stock image of man dribbling an large amount of saliva. The report shuns several of the Australian media guidelines on ethical reporting of HIV.
Published in OutinPerth on August 5th, 2018
Fiji: National Substance Abuse Advisory Council training of trainers workshop advises participants that having sex without disclosing is a criminal act
KNOWINGLY SPREADING HIV ‘A CRIME’
Anyone who has the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and knowingly transmits it to a sexual partner without informing them is committing a crime.
If someone is found guilty of the crime in a court of law that person is liable for a fine or a jail term not exceeding two years.
This was highlighted by Northern Reproductive Health Clinic acting senior medical officer Doctor Waisale Turuva during a workshop in Labasa.
The four-day Ministry of Education National Substance Abuse Advisory Council training of trainers’ workshop ended at the Kshatriya Hall in Labasa yesterday.
There were 41 participants, who were teachers from Bua and Macuata provinces.
“We counsel our patients when they go out of the office with medication to inform their partner immediately,” Dr Turuva said.
“So if they are having sex with their mutual partner without their partner knowing then it becomes a criminal act according to the HIV/AIDS Decree 2011.
“There are seven parts in the decree and according to part six ‘the deliberate or attempted infection of a person by a person who knows he or she carries HIV is an offence under this decree.
“It is very important to report about a person committing such an offence and at the same time it is very important that you know it is factual. From this workshop I expect teachers to be well informed and help out people who need help.”
Edited by Epineri Vula
Published in Fiji Sun online on August 3, 2018
Singapore: 29-year-old man living with HIV sentenced to 2 years for HIV non-disclosure
Man jailed for not telling partner about his HIV status
HIV-positive man had unprotected sex with his unsuspecting partner
Russia: 32-year-old man in Novosibirk fined and sentenced to 1.8 year in prison for alleged HIV transmission
Man from Novosibirk intentionally infected the girl with HIV. He was given almost 2 years of strict security (Google translation, scroll down for original article in Russian)
In Novosibirsk, the trial of a 32-year-old man, who three years ago infected his partner with HIV, ended: he was given a real term.
“In the court session <…> [he] did not fully acknowledge the crime in the commission of the crime and explained that he had informed the victim about the HIV infection,” the NSO correspondent was told in the prosecutor’s office of the Kirovsky district of Novosibirsk.
As previously reported in the same department, in December 2014 the convict began to correspond with the girl already known to him in the social network “VKontakte”, soon the couple began to meet. According to the prosecutor’s office, the man has already been tried many times and, in addition, according to the partner, in the past he was drug addict. Therefore, before sex, the girl asked if he had any diseases that could be transmitted sexually. The man assured the partner that he was not sick at all, although from the beginning of 2013 he knew about his HIV status, the district prosecutor’s office said.
According to her information, in the spring of 2015, the girl found herself infected with the virus, and went to the police . As a result, the man went to court.
As explained in the prosecutor’s office of the Kirov district, by this time he was already serving another term in the colony of strict regime for “theft of property.” “But since we began to consider [a new criminal case] in court, he was sent to the SIZO,” the prosecutor’s office explained.
In court, the man claimed that he had not kept his HIV status from anyone, but the girl insisted that she did not know about his illness. “He hid it from her, and his relatives and acquaintances, but after entering into sexual relations, informed the victim that he was HIV-infected,” the prosecutor’s office told.
The Kirov District Court of Novosibirsk found the man guilty of “transmitting HIV” (Part 2, Article 122 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 1 year of imprisonment and 8 months. Taking into account the previous sentence, the convict finally received 6 years in a strict-regime colony. In addition, he is obliged to pay the infected 29-year-old girl 200 thousand rubles for non-pecuniary damage. The verdict has not yet entered into legal force.
Published in News.Ngs.ru on Aug 1, 2018
Новосибирец специально заразил девушку ВИЧ. Ему дали почти 2 года строгого режима
В Новосибирске завершился суд над 32-летним мужчиной, который три года назад заразил ВИЧ-инфекцией свою партнёршу: ему дали реальный срок.
«В судебном заседании <…> [он] вину в совершении преступления полностью не признал и пояснил, что о наличии у него ВИЧ-инфекции сообщал потерпевшей», — рассказали корреспонденту НГС в прокуратуре Кировского района Новосибирска.
Как ранее сообщали в этом же ведомстве, в декабре 2014 года осуждённый начал переписываться с уже знакомой ему девушкой в социальной сети «ВКонтакте», вскоре пара стала встречаться. По информации прокуратуры, мужчина уже не раз был судим и, кроме того, по словам партнёрши, в прошлом был наркозависимым. Поэтому перед сексом девушка спросила, нет ли у него заболеваний, которые могут передаваться половым путём. Мужчина заверил партнёршу, что ничем не болеет, хотя ещё с начала 2013 года знал о своём ВИЧ-статусе, рассказывали в прокуратуре района.
[Update]Ireland: 28-year-old African migrant found guilty of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm’ sentenced to ten years
Man sentenced to ten years for infecting women with HIV
A man who infected two women with HIV has been sentenced to ten years in prison by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
The women had told the court he had destroyed their lives and affected the health of their families.
The man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of the women, was found guilty earlier this month of causing them serious harm by infecting them with HIV.
He had denied the charges but a jury gave a unanimous guilty verdict.
Garda Colm Kelly outlined the facts of the case to Judge Martin Nolan at a sentencing hearing today.
He said the women both started relationships with the man during 2009 and he had unprotected sex with them.
They were both tested and found to be HIV positive in 2010.
They both said he was their partner and it was later established he had been diagnosed as HIV positive in 2008.
At that time he had been advised not to engage in unprotected sex and had been given anti-retro viral drugs. If taken these drugs would have meant he was unlikely to have passed on the infection.
When tested in 2010 he was found to have a high viral load which suggested he had not taken his medication.
The two women when tested were found to be carrying the same sub-type of HIV with the same mutation as the man.
The man’s ex-wife told the court she married him only because he told her no one else would want her now she has HIV and that he would not be there for their daughter if she did not marry him.
She had discovered she was HIV positive when she became pregnant.
She said she repeatedly tried to get away from him but he pestered her so much she had to leave her apartment and move back in with her mother.
She said he had destroyed her soul and while he had not beaten her physically he had done everything else possible to destroy her.
She said she tried to end her life several times by different methods. She said whenever she went out he would turn up and tell people she had HIV and not to go near her and so she stopped going out.
She said she had lost her car and her job and now relies on disability payments. She said her ex-husband has taken everything she used to be.
She said she used to be full of energy always out running and always there for her daughter but most days now she cannot even get out of bed.
The second woman gave her victim impact statement through a letter read out to the court.
She said physically she has been left infected with AIDS.
She said there were also mental effects on her. She said she was very depressed when first diagnosed.
She also said that she repeatedly tried to get away from the man but he pestered her. He would turn up when she was on a night out and tell people she had HIV and she had given it to him.
She said he had told her she gave it to him but she since found out it was the other way around.
She said he isolated her. She has had to repeat college courses and her ability to look after her daughter has been affected. She said feels cannot have a healthy relationship
Both women said their mothers had become ill through the stress of everything he had put them through.
Published in RTE on July 27, 2018
Man found guilty of ‘intentionally’ infecting women with HIV
Defendant remanded in custody and could be sentenced to life in prison later this month
An African national convicted of causing serious harm to two former partners by infecting them with HIV will be sentenced later this month.
In the first case of its kind here, the State alleged that the 28-year-old man was aware of his diagnosis when he infected the women and that this amounted to serious harm. The man, who lives in Dublin, cannot be named to protect the identities of the complainants in the case. He had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the two women on dates between November 2009 and June 2010.
After an eleven-day trial and just under four and a half hours of deliberations, a jury of nine women and three men returned unanimous guilty verdicts on both charges.
Judge Martin Nolan refused a defence application for bail. He said there was some risk of the man fleeing and that a custodial sentence was quite likely. The maximum penalty for the offence is life. The judge remanded the man in custody to appear again in court on July 26th for a sentence hearing.
He thanked the jury for the carrying out its duty and said the case had been a pretty difficult one with unusual type of evidence.
In his closing speech to the jury on Tuesday, prosecution counsel Dominic McGinn SC submitted that expert witnesses had said that all three parties had the same subtype and mutations of the virus.
‘Remarkably similar accounts’
Mr McGinn said the complainants had “remarkably similar” accounts and said they used condoms with previous partners. He reminded the jury that it had heard condoms, “if used correctly, effectively stop transmission” and that oral sex does not lead to infection.
He said there was no evidence that any of the complainants’ previous partners were HIV positive. He told the jury the man lied to the complainants’ doctor about his positive diagnosis and “went through the charade” of being tested again for the virus in 2010.
“He knew full well he was HIV positive. He was advised about having safe sex. He admitted that to gardaí and he was given anti-viral medication and he didn’t take it,” Mr McGinn said.
Mr McGinn told the jury that the accused was guilty on both charges against him because he acted recklessly and caused serious harm to the complainants. In his closing speech, defence counsel Paul Greene SC told the jury that both of the complainants told lies in court about their previous sexual history. He suggested this meant their overall evidence was unreliable.
He reminded them that defence expert witness Professor Andrew Leigh Brown’s evidence was that this was the first criminal trial at which he had given expert advice where phylogenetic analysis was not carried out, and that this analysis was effective at excluding potential sources of infection. Prof Leigh Brown agreed with Mr McGinn under cross-examination that this analysis “can never actually establish that one person gave it to another.” During the application for bail Garda Sergeant Mark Waters told Gareth Baker BL that he was objecting to bail on the basis that the man now posed a flight risk.
He said that while he has a number of children here, their mothers have said he does see them. Mr Greene submitted that his client was not a flight risk, was resident here since 2008 and had a real interest in staying here and was still in the process of seeking asylum. He said he was on combination medication therapy here to treat his virus. Counsel said the man, who may also have a child in the UK, had instructed him that his children here were important to him.
Published in the Irish Times on July 13, 2018
Man denies intentionally infecting women with HIV
Court hears accused (27) was diagnosed in 2008 and went on to have babies with two women
A man has gone on trial accused of causing serious harm to two former girlfriends by infecting them with HIV.
The man (27) who cannot be named to protect the identities of the complainants in the case, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the women on dates between November 2009 and June 2010.
In his opening address, Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, told the jury that it is alleged the man was aware of his diagnosis when he infected the women with HIV and that this amounts to serious harm.
He told the jurors that HIV is a life altering virus that can be spread by having unprotected sex and that it can be life threatening if left untreated.
Mr McGinn said the jury would hear that the man was in relationships with both women at the time, but neither complainant knew about the other.
Counsel said there would be evidence that no condoms or barrier protection were used during sex in either relationship.
He said it was the State’s case that in early 2010 one complainant became pregnant and was diagnosed with HIV after a standard screening process. Mr McGinn told the jury it would hear that the man was also tested as a result and that he appeared surprised by a positive diagnosis.
Counsel said the second complainant was tested and diagnosed in June 2010. Mr McGinn told the jury there would be evidence that the man subsequently had babies with both women, but the children did not contract the virus.
Mr McGinn said it was the prosecution’s case that the man had been diagnosed with HIV in March 2008 and was aware of his condition and advised about practicing safe sex.
He said it is alleged the man failed to tell either woman of his diagnosis and therefore caused them serious harm by infecting them with the virus.
Mr McGinn added that the jury would hear from a medical practitioner during the trial about the seriousness of being diagnosed with HIV.
Judge Martin Nolan warned the jury not to look up anyone connected to the trial on the internet or discuss the case with any other parties.
The trial continues.
Published in The Irish Times on June 26, 2018
Media session at Beyond Blame preconference outlines stigmatising and harmful media reporting
By Mathew Rodriguez
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — As a news consumer, how can you tell if a story you’re reading about HIV criminalization is actually fair, or has the interests of people living with HIV in mind? Despite a noticeable shift in better coverage for HIV criminalization cases, activists at the Beyond Blame pre-conference to the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam reported that too many journalists rely on harmful frameworks when reporting stories about potential HIV exposures and people with HIV whose bodies are criminalized.
Here are a few ways to see whether or not you’re being told a story that is doing way more harm than good for people living with HIV, as outlined by Janet Butler-McPhee, director of communications and advocacy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Nic Holas, co-founder of Australia’s HIV movement The Institute of Many.
The HIV Monster
Though Butler-McPhee said this narrative is slightly fading, too many journalists still rely on this frame as a way to garner clicks. This narrative paints people with HIV as purposefully hiding their status in order to be deceptive to an HIV-negative person or people. This framework also implies that people with HIV have some innate intent to transmit the virus and that HIV-positive people are all terrifying potential perpetrators of criminal activity.
Aside from othering people with HIV, this narrative also turns HIV-negative people into innocent victims with zero agency in their own lives. These narratives often omit pertinent details about the relationship between the accused and accuser. It turns a complex relationship into victims and villains.
It’s racist AF
HIV criminalization and obvious racism go hand in hand. This is very similar to the HIV monster narrative but also relies on racist tropes to tell its story. For instance, in many countries like Canada and the United States, black men are often painted as vectors of disease who are preying on innocent white women or white gay men. This narrative happens with other marginalized groups, as well.
The story claims HIV criminalization will protect you!
Some stories share the names and information about an HIV-positive person’s HIV criminalization case as a form of “public good” — saying that the public deserves to know someone’s private health information. Butler-McPhee stressed that this is unfortunately rooted in the idea that people with HIV do not have basic rights to privacy and that outing them will do more public good than personal bad — which is wrong . Coverage that relies on outing people with HIV is often inherently racist as well. Their names are published to protect white women.
Stories like this once again put all the onus of public health on HIV-positive people. It also sets HIV apart from every other STI or blood-borne infection, reinforcing the stigmatizing idea that it is somehow scarier or deadlier. Coverage like this also retraumatizes the accused.
Additionally, Holas stressed, local police officers often rely on media to get an accused’s name in headlines and stories to get other potential sex partners to come forward to build a case around them. In cases like this, the media may be unknowingly doing the police force’s work to help criminalize a person with HIV.
The story reports that HIV is easy to transmit and a death sentence.
Any coverage of HIV in 2018 that treats HIV as an automatic death sentence is unscientific and wrong. While it’s true that many people in the global South and even certain regions in the United States might see worse outcomes due to an HIV diagnosis than others, putting the onus on the virus instead of racist socio-economic conditions puts people with HIV at risk. When discussing HIV criminalization, stories too often rely on people’s fear of the virus rather than reality to prove their point.
“It’s easy to disclose your HIV status, so just do it!”
If there’s one thing that HIV criminalization stories prove, it’s that living with HIV in 2018 is a serious risk for personal safety. However, many stories still push the idea that disclosure is the end-all-be-all of living with HIV and that it is the “morally correct” thing to do, even when the story itself is showing the many negative consequences that can come along with HIV disclosure.
These stories also don’t take into the account the pervasive violence and stigma that people living with HIV face daily. As Holas said, these stories revolve around the idea that “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
For those in the media interested in improving their coverage or for advocates looking to make sure their messaging on HIV criminalization is media-ready, the HIV Justice Network does have a guide on HIV criminalization and the media.
Published in INTO on July 23, 2018
Beyond Blame symposium highlights intersectionality of issues related to HIV criminalisation at AIDS 2018
Strategies to oppose the unscientific criminalisation of HIV transmission received a high profile at events in advance of the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam this week.
These included the launch by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law of a Supplement to its 2012 Report, Risks, Rights & Health, and the HIV Justice Worldwide symposium, Beyond Blame: Challenging HIV Criminalisation.
Read more at aidsmap.com