News from other sources
US: Naomi Wilding, Elizabeth Taylor’s granddaughter, on why the proposed bill to reform HIV criminalisation laws in California is such an important step in the fight against HIV
It is widely unknown amongst the general population in the U.S. that we currently have antiquated and discriminatory laws that criminalize people living with HIV.
Two thirds of U.S. states, territories, and possessions have HIV-specific criminal statutes used to prosecute people with HIV. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that the only country that has prosecuted more people based on HIV status than the U.S. is Russia.
Repealing these laws would have been a priority for my grandmother, and I feel it is more important than ever to shine a light on these issues, especially given the new political climate we’ve entered.
Published in the Hill on February 16, 2017
Legislation criminalizing HIV began in the early 1980s when contracting the disease was thought of as “a death sentence.”
We also now have medications that can prevent HIV transmission — a daily pill called PrEP that some people have compared to the birth control pill, but for HIV prevention. Yet, the laws have not caught up with medical advances.
Most of the laws are about disclosure and make it illegal for a person with HIV to engage in sexual contact without first disclosing their status. It doesn’t matter if the person has an undetectable viral load and/ or uses a condom and no HIV transmission occurred. In some places spitting or exposure to saliva can be prosecuted as a felony, even though we’ve long known that HIV can’t be transmitted through saliva.
My advocacy work with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and our grantee partner, SERO Project (a network of people with HIV and allies fighting for freedom from stigma and injustice), has introduced me to some heartbreaking stories of people whose lives are ruined by these unjust laws: Kerry Thomas, a grandfather in Idaho, is serving 30 years in prison for consensual sex where both parties agreed that he always insisted on using condoms.
His medical records show he had an undetectable viral load and the virus was not passed, yet Kerry was convicted anyway. And Willie Campbell, who is serving 35 years in a prison in Texas for spitting, after the court classified the homeless man’s saliva as a “deadly weapon”.
These cases are not just happening in ‘red states.’ The state of California has arrested and charged more than 800 people under HIV criminalization statutes between 1988 and 2014.
This is a human rights issue. Lack of education and misinformation are being used as weapons of blatant discrimination. In fact, most of the laws are very vague, leaving too much to interpretation and potential discrimination.
According to the CDC, as of 2015, 92 percent of new infections occur from people who do not know their status or are not on treatment. If laws criminalizing HIV and stigma were gone, people would feel more at ease to disclose their status, whether at work, or in an intimate or sexual relationship, ultimately resulting in more people getting tested, knowing their status and directly reducing the spread of new HIV infections.
Laws that criminalize HIV increase stigma and discrimination. They hinge on the disclosure requirement, which frequently comes down to “he said-she said”, with the HIV-positive person more often than not perceived as a villain, and facing an assumption of guilt when in a courtroom.
Using updated scientific facts to educate the public can work. In Colorado, the state legislature recently voted to pass Senate Bill 146, repealing two HIV criminalization statutes and reforming others. “Most people really knew very little about this topic. Yet when presented with evidence, they quickly agreed these laws are anachronistic and are no longer based on current science and medicine,” Colorado Senator Pat Steadman said of the success local advocates had in changing the outdated legislature.
Now in California there is an opportunity to pass legislation that is inclusive, updated, and reflective of the advances we make in society.
Last week, California Senator Scott Weiner and Assembly members Todd Gloria and David Chiu introduced Senate Bill 239, a bill that will modernize laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV.
Passage of reforms like Senate Bill 239 are necessary next steps in the fight against HIV in the U.S. and around the world. We know that marginalized communities face huge disparities with HIV and AIDS rates, and specific HIV criminalization laws only exacerbate this fact.
Most people faced with HIV criminalization charges in California include people of color, cis and transgender women, and LGBTQ youth.
Thankfully we also have organizations like Equality California, the ACLU, Positive Women’s Network, and others who support medically and scientifically accurate information pertaining to HIV, and continue to work with members of the Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR) coalition to ensure justice and empathy for people living with HIV. One thing we should all know: HIV is not a crime.
My grandmother’s work as an activist and advocate is inspiring. She had such visibility and used it so brilliantly to help raise awareness and ease the suffering of those with HIV. And while we don’t all have that same kind of visibility, if we all work to speak out about intolerance, and we do what we can to raise awareness, then we become a movement, and that’s what becomes a force for change.
Naomi Wilding is granddaughter of the legendary actress and humanitarian, Elizabeth Taylor. She is now an ambassador of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and has pledged to do what she can to help those living with HIV and AIDS, and in creating an AIDS-free generation.
Zimbabwe: Man arrested in Bulwayo for alleged HIV transmission
A 22-YEAR-OLD woman reported her 41-year-old boyfriend after he allegedly deliberately infected her with HIV.
A Bulawayo magistrate heard yesterday that the couple has been living in Nkulumane suburb for the past two years and have a baby who is 16 months old.
State allegations are that the woman stumbled upon her boyfriend’s medical cards on February 8 showing that he was HIV positive.
The man, whose name has been withheld for ethical reasons, pleaded not guilty to a charge of deliberately infecting another person with HIV.
Bulawayo Regional Magistrate Mr Chrispen Mberewere remanded him out of custody to March 14 for trial.
State representative Mr Simbarashe Manyiwa alleged that the woman asked her boyfriend about the medical cards she had found in his pocket but he laughed off the matter.
“Complainant found cards dated and stamped by OI (Opportunistic Infections clinic) and she asked the accused what they were for. Accused laughed and said he had gotten them from his grandmother. Complainant was not satisfied so she did her own investigations,” said Mr Manyiwa.
He said the woman approached her cousin with the cards but he also displayed ignorance on the matter.
“Complainant’s cousin referred her to his friend who is a nurse at a local hospital.
“The friend is the one who explained that the cards are used when obtaining HIV treatment,” said Mr Manyiwa.
He said the woman went for testing and found that she was HIV positive.
“She went and confronted her boyfriend again about the issue and her new HIV status and he admitted that he was on treatment. Complainant made a police report leading to the arrest of the accused,” said Mr Manyiwa.
Published in Zim Eye on February 17th, 2017
US: Florida courts still waiting for Supreme Court decision on whether sex between same sex couples is actually intercourse under Florida statutes
It has been two years since the state’s highest court held legal arguments about the validity of a 1986 statute requiring HIV-positive people to reveal their infection before having “sexual intercourse.”
The case involves a man charged with a felony after failing to tell his male sex partner that he carries the human immunodeficiency virus. There’s the rub.
The legal issue before the court is . Really. That’s because of the way the law was written a hundred years ago, and now courts in different parts of Florida have disagreed on its application.
“In the history of Florida law the specific term, sexual intercourse has always been interpreted only to mean reproductive sexual conduct,” Gary De Baun’s lawyer argued.
Therefore, he claimed his client’s conviction should thus be reversed; that he did not violate the law as written, because it only applies to sexual conduct between a man and a woman.
Florida courts have disagreed, and the legal issue is before the Supreme Court for resolution. But it has been for a long while. It was argued on Feb. 4, 2015, and the court has still not ruled. Meanwhile, until the highest court of this case decides this case, prosecutors in multiple counties are reaching conflicting decisions.
The record in this case shows that Debaun’s partner asked him to take an HIV test, and that Debaun, who knew that he was infected, gave his partner fake test results, showing he was free of the virus that causes AIDS. A lower court threw out the charge, but it was reinstated on appeal. So until the court decides, Debaun lives in limbo.
Debaun’s lawyers are saying that since the legislature has failed to define intercourse as anything but sex between a man and a woman, the disclosure requirement cannot be applied to same-sex couples. If the court agrees, the case would be dismissed- if the court ever rules.
At the time, Justice Pariente criticized the legislature for its inaction, remarking “this issue could be solved easily by them.”
An experienced court watcher in Tallahassee told SFGN that cases “generally don’t take this long to decide. One of the moving parties should prod the court for a ruling.”
It’s ironic the delay has taken so long, because on April 7, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court designated this as a “high profile case of significant public and media interest.”
Well, apparently not that significant. We will see soon.
Published in FSGN on February 14, 2017
Czech Republic: Man living with HIV sentenced to 8 years in jail for alleged transmission
Man sent to prison for spreading HIV knowingly
US: Florida man living with HIV arrested for alleged HIV non-disclosure
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man is accused of having sex with a woman without telling her he had HIV.
A police report says an unnamed victim claimed she contracted HIV after having sex with 46-year-old Talmadge Swans.
His friend Delano Brown said that’s just the beginning.
He believes there are more victims who have had sexual relationships with Swans without knowing his medical history.
The man said he is urging any woman who had a sexual relationship with Swans to get tested.
Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said the charge is also a form of assault.
“It’s the same as assaulting someone, in this particular case with a virus, instead of your fists,” Carson said.
Brown said he just hopes this will convince other local women to get tested.
“If you had sexual relations with this man, please go get tested,” Brown said. “Your life is dependent on it. He doesn’t care.”
Published in Action News Jax on February 13, 2017
US: Man arrested in South Carolina for alleged HIV exposure
Man arrested in Myrtle Beach for exposing woman to HIV
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – A man was arrested by Myrtle Beach police Thursday for exposing someone to the HIV virus, a report said.
According to the MBPD bookings website, Monti Ray Davis, 45, was booked into jail just before 8 p.m.
Arrest warrants state a woman contacted police saying she had unprotected sex with Davis twice this year after meeting him on a “internet meeting site.” She said she later did research and found that Davis had prior charges of exposing others to HIV.
Police later confirmed the previous charges existed, the warrant stated.
Davis is currently charged with two counts of exposing another to the HIV virus.
Bond has not been issued.
US: Woman living with HIV in Iowa charged with “possibly” transmitting HIV to another woman during a fight
Suspect charged with possibly passing HIV on to victim
DAVENPORT, Iowa – A Davenport woman is charged with possibly passing HIV on to a victim during a fight.
The incident happened on Tuesday afternoon in the 1400 block of Jersey Ridge Road.
According to police reports, Kelly Williams, 45, assaulted another woman, hitting her in the face and biting her arm, causing it to bleed.
Police say Williams admitted that she knows she is HIV positive, putting the victim at risk of infection.
Williams is in custody in the Scott County Jail on a cash-only bond of $25,000 and charged with assault with injury and criminal transmission of immune deficiency virus.
There is no word on the victim’s condition.
Canada: Community organisations in Ontario call for an immediate moratorium on all prosecutions and sound prosecutorial guidelines
Stop the witch-hunt of HIV criminalization
People living with HIV are being charged with some of the most serious offences in our criminal law, even in situations where there has been no transmission of HIV, no realistic possibility of transmission, and no intent to transmit.
Witch-hunts aren’t always sudden social paroxysms. They can be pursued slowly and with a veneer of legality — a steady erosion of rights and decency tapping into, and reinforcing deep-rooted fear, stigma and prejudice. Their harm isn’t limited solely to the injustices meted out to those directly targeted; they cast a broader shadow over entire communities.
It’s what’s happening here, courtesy of the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General that has so far refused to recognize both science and human rights when it comes to prosecutions for alleged nondisclosure of HIV.
People living with HIV are being charged with some of the most serious offences in our criminal law (such as “aggravated sexual assault”), even in situations where there has been no transmission of HIV, no realistic possibility of transmission, and no intent to transmit.
Simply put, they are being criminalized for having HIV, caught up in a justice system, from policing to prosecution to prison, that too often disregards evidence and the public interest.
(After the recent incident involving a Toronto police officer talking nonsense about how “AIDS” can be transmitted, it’s clear there is much work to be done on the policing front, too. Scientific consensus is that there is zero risk of HIV transmission through spit and a vanishingly minuscule possibility of transmission through a bite. At least scientifically speaking, we’re not in 1984.)
For many years, a group of committed people living with HIV, lawyers, academics and other advocates has called on the attorney general to put an end to this overly broad use of the criminal law.
In particular, this coalition has urged the adoption of sound guidelines for prosecutors to appropriately limit the use of criminal charges. Repeatedly, it has denounced problematic prosecutions that continue in Ontario — prosecutions accompanied by media coverage that, according to a recent study, disproportionately features black and/or immigrant men and often reflects racist stereotypes. Repeatedly, the coalition has suggested remedies for this ongoing injustice, drawing on a province-wide consultation.
But successive attorneys general have been unable or unwilling to rein in overzealous prosecutors, and have failed to develop prosecutorial guidance in line with science and numerous international recommendations.
As it stands, a so-called “HIV experts group” of crown prosecutors within the ministry now runs this horrible show in Ontario, leading the charge against people living with HIV. From the outside, we don’t know the group’s composition or how they make their decisions to pursue a particular prosecution.
Community organizations have requested a meeting. So, too, have scientific experts — who have pointed out that a correctly used latex condom is 100 per cent effective in blocking passage of HIV, as well as the science now establishing that someone with an undetectable viral load (including as a result of effective treatment with anti-HIV drugs) is effectively non-infectious. Yet this group of “HIV expert” prosecutors has not responded.
However, recent reports in the Star revealed an infamous guide for prosecuting cases of HIV nondisclosure, developed by Hamilton crown attorney Karen Shea — who has played an active role in advancing such cases around the province — for use by other prosecutors. (The government was ordered to release this document after years of wrangling in court.)
A Ministry spokesperson admitted the guide takes a “prosecution at all costs” approach and “doesn’t take into consideration the kinds of situations in which a more lenient approach might be justified.”
It is therefore no surprise that we continue to see the misuse of charges of aggravated sexual assault, a criminal offence usually reserved for the most violent rapes, even in cases of consensual sex where there was negligible or no risk of HIV transmission, no actual transmission and no intent to transmit.
Such prosecutions damage individual lives and public health. As stated last month by Canada’s federal justice minister, “… the over-criminalization of HIV nondisclosure discourages many individuals from being tested and seeking treatment, and further stigmatizes those living with HIV or AIDS.”
Enough is enough. Attorney General Yasir Naqvi — and Premier Wynne herself, who expressed her concern to us in-person three years ago — must stop this witch-hunt. More than 500 letters of concern have, as of this week, been sent to both by outraged community members.
We need an immediate moratorium on all prosecutions (except in those very rare cases of intentional transmission), and we need sound prosecutorial guidelines that respect science and human rights.
Richard Elliott is the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a member of the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure. Stephen Lewis is board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization.
Published in The Star on February 8, 2017
[Update] UK: Man charged with alleged deliberate HIV-exposure pleads not guilty in East Sussex Court
A man with HIV has denied deliberately infecting his sexual partners in the Brighton area, a court was told.
Daryll Rowe, 26, of no fixed address, pleaded not guilty when he appeared via video link at Lewes Crown Court on Monday (6 February).
Sussex Police said: “A man charged with four counts of grievous bodily harm and four counts of attempted grievous bodily harm by deliberately infecting his victims with HIV in the Brighton area has pleaded not guilty.”
Rowe was remanded in custody to appear for trial at Lewes Crown Court on Monday 5 June.
Sussex Police added: “Anyone who thinks they may have had a sexual encounter with this man is urged to come forward and anyone with concerns is encouraged to contact their local sexual health services.”
Published in Brighton and Hove News on February 8, 2017
Officers hunt man at centre of HIV infection inquiry
A MAN arrested on suspicion of deliberately infecting his male lovers with HIV is wanted by police after failing to answer bail.
Daryll Rowe, 25, of Edinburgh, is alleged to have put men at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by deliberately tampering with condoms. He was arrested in Brighton on February 5 on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
He was released on bail by Sussex Police until April 5 before being re-bailed twice until May and then until last Friday.
He is now aged 26 and has no fixed address.
Last night a force spokeswoman said officers did not know his whereabouts but were “pursuing all lines of enquiry” in a bid to find him.
She said: “Police officers are looking for a 26-year-old man, who was arrested in Brighton on suspicion of deliberately infecting men with HIV in February this year, after he failed to answer bail on Friday.
“A warrant is not necessary for him to be arrested when found. We are actively working with other police forces to locate him and are pursuing all lines of enquiry.
“The man has bail conditions not to come to Brighton and we do not believe he is in Sussex.”
At the time of his arrest, two potential victims had spoken to officers.
Another man came forward after press coverage of the police appeal and a public health warning issued by both Brighton and Hove City Council’s director of public health and Sussex Police on February 23.
Officials urged anyone who may have been sexually involved with the man between October last year and mid February to seek health advice.
But neither the council or police provided his name and only identified him as being a Scottish-accented man in his twenties.
The Argus confirmed his identity with officials in his native Scotland and revealed his name after the police force said it was unable legally to do so.
This newspaper has pictures of the man but has chosen not to release them in case there was potential risk of prejudicing the police investigation.
Anyone with information or who thinks they may have had a sexual encounter with the man should call police on 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting Operation Brickhill.
“Our investigation in to allegations that a man deliberately sabotaged safe sex practices with other men, exposing them to the risk of HIV and other sexual infection, is ongoing. We continue to work closely with Brighton and Hove City Council, Public Health England and sexual health services throughout the city to ensure individuals at risk have access to early diagnosis and treatment and have the opportunity to discuss their circumstances with officers should they chose to.” – Detective inspector Andy Wolstenholme speaking at the time of the arrest
Published in The Argus on Nov 23, 2016
[Update] US: Indiana man facing 27-criminal counts for alleged HIV transmission and non-disclosure agrees plea deal
Benford plea deal calls for 14 years in prison
A Terre Haute man accused of knowingly spreading HIV has agreed to a plea deal that would resolve his five pending criminal cases.
Isiah Benford, 32, was to go on trial Monday in Vigo Superior Court 6 on charges of robbery and battery. The trial was scratched Monday morning before jury selection began.
Judge Michael Lewis set a March 16 hearing for acceptance or rejection.
The agreement signed by Benford, defense attorney Mark Mullican, and deputy prosecuting attorney Sabrina Haney calls for a 6-year sentence for a 2014 robbery, and a 24-year sentence for battery by bodily waste in the case that alleges he failed to warn others of his HIV status.
The plea deals states that 14 years shall be served in the Indiana Department of Correction, while the remaining 10 years can be served on formal probation. If Benford completes the Purposeful Incarceration program, he could petition the court for a sentence modification.
Benford will also receive credit for time already served while awaiting trial. The credit will be determined during the March 14 hearing.
Benford was arrested and charged in 2015 with 16 criminal counts alleging he had sex with people while aware he was a potential carrier of HIV, which can lead to AIDS.
Those charges were later amended to include seven alleged victims and a total of 27 criminal counts, including aggravated battery, battery by bodily waste, failure of carrier’s duty to warn and battery resulting in serious bodily injury.
A trial in the HIV-related case was postponed last year. Judge Lewis agreed to a defense request to split the case into seven trials to handle the facts involving each victim separately, rather than overwhelming a single jury with a complicated case.
The 2014 robbery case involved a co-defendant who is also a victim in the HIV-related case. The other three cases against Benford, which will be dismissed, are a March 2013 domestic battery, a February 2013 theft and a 2016 intimidation case.
Following Monday’s court hearing, Benford was returned to Vigo County Jail to await the March hearing.
Published on February 7, 2914 in The Tribune Star
Pool of 150 jurors to be considered in trial of Vigo Co. man accused of knowingly spreading HIV
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – A high profile trial is set to begin in Vigo County on August 15th.
Isiah Benford stands accused of knowingly spreading HIV for more than a decade. Benford faces 27-criminal counts ranging from aggravated battery to failure to warn his partners of his positive status, which is called “duty to warn.”
The charges are based on accusations from seven different women who claim Benford gave them HIV, one has developed AIDS.
Benford is scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 15th for the five charges alleged by “Partner D.”
According to court documents, a pool of 150 potential jurors will be considered. Fifty will report for duty at 9 o’clock on the morning of Monday Aug. 15th. Another fifty will report later that same afternoon. If a jury is not seated, the last fifty will be called on Aug. 16th.
Benford will face separate trials for each alleged victim.
Published on August 1, 2016 in WTHITV