A 47 year-old man from Portland, Tennesseee became the 15th person to be prosecuted under Tennessee’s criminal HIV exposure laws this week after he was charged with three counts of criminal exposure to HIV.
The details of this case, as reported on the tennesseean.com, are rather unusual since the man took a ‘drug holiday’ during his relationship with the woman, and may have been aware that his viral load would have increased during this time.
He also apparently waived his Miranda rights and confessed to his arresting officers that he had unprotected sex with the female complainant, who tested HIV-positive in December 2008, “without her knowledge or consent”.
She told police she met Tanner, 47, in December 2007 and began dating him in January 2008.
The woman alleges she had sex with him four times between April and November 2008, and three of those four times were unprotected.
Before this relationship, she had been living in abstinence, and she further told authorities Tanner was the only man she had been intimate with in several years.
According to police, the woman alleged Tanner told her [in] Nov  that he had been diagnosed with positive HIV approximately 10 years before their relationship began.
Tanner reportedly told her he had been on a “holiday,” which he described as when an individual stops taking his prescribed medication.
He further told authorities he had been on the holiday approximately 10 to 12 months. The woman found out Dec. 30 she was HIV positive and claims when Tanner found out he said, “Now that you are sick like me, I can take care of you.”
Although HIV transmission is alleged to have taken place, in Tennessee this does not have to be proven for the man to be found guilty.
On Wednesday, a 39 year-old HIV-positive woman from Orleans in north-central France was found guilty of the French crime of “administration de substance nuisible par conjoint ou concubin ayant entraîné une infirmité permanente” (administering a harmful substance to one’s spouse or common law husband/wife with the consequence of lifelong impairment) for not disclosing her HIV status to her ex-husband, who subsequently was also diagnosed HIV-positive.
The three day trial is notable for several reasons. Although the first criminal HIV transmission conviction took place in France in 1996, and there have been around 15 convictions since, this is the first to have been tried in the Assize Court (Cour d’assises) which is only for people accused of committing the most serious of crimes, such as murder and rape.
CG faced up to 15 years in prison, and the prosecution requested between six and eight, but the judge was surprisingly lenient, due to her lack of good health, and she was given a five year suspended sentence.
The case has received much press coverage in France, but has not yet been picked up any English language papers. I was alerted to the case by a reader in France.
A previous hearing had raised doubts about proving the timing and direction of infection but this appears to have been ignored by the latest trial. It would be interesting to know what ‘proof’ the prosecution provided, other than her diagnosis in 1991 and his in 1997, that she had transmitted HIV to him. Without robust evidence, there may be grounds for appeal, but perhaps, given that the sentence is suspended, and Ms G poor health, there is little point in extending a battle that has raged in the courts for six years. It’s all so terribly sad.