Since the guilty verdict in first ever murder trial for sexual HIV transmission, Canada’s media has been filled with editorials, for the most part welcoming Johnson Aziga’s conviction.
For example, Mr Aziga’s local paper, The Hamilton Spectator, whose reporter Barbara Brown covered every day of the trial, led with an editorial today headlined: .
More sinister, is The Winnipeg Free Press editorial which used Mr Aziga’s conviction as thinly-veiled racist commentary, arguging that African migrants with infectious diseases have no place in Canada, in today’s editorial entitled, Opening doors to disease.
Other papers, such as The Chronicle Herald from Nova Scotia, The Toronto Star and the national Globe and Mail, have picked up on earlier comments from Alison Symington of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Network, who questions a society that has turned a public health issue into one of murder. Right-wing columnist Rose Dimano even managed to be ‘shocked’ in her Toronto Star editorial.
Shockingly, there are some AIDS activists who support the view that HIV-positive individuals have no obligation to reveal their status to sexual partners; that everyone is responsible for taking their own precautions.
However, there has also been some balanced reporting, notably an article by Wade Hemsworth of The Hamilton Spectator, entitled Should we keep AIDS out of the courts? which featured interviews with myself and Ms Symington alongside that of a retired law professor who was pro-criminalisation. The piece was also summarised today by the Kaiser Network.
Update: April 15th. Also including a link to a website called findingdulcinea.com which includes a very nice summary of the issues, and includes a voting tool asking whether Johnson Aziga is a murderer. After 18 votes, 72% voted yes, 17% voted no, and 11% were unsure.
And I almost missed the best anti-criminalisation piece of them all from Canada’s gay paper, Xtra, featuring excellent quotes from Richard Elliott, the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Angel Parks, coordinator of the AIDS Committee of Toronto’s Positive Youth Outreach programme; and Barry Adam, a sociologist at the University of Windsor and Ontario HIV Treatment Network.
Finally, I wrote a piece for aidsmap.com published today about the facts of the case, the first few paragraphs I reproduce here.
A Canadian man who is thought to have recklessly transmitted HIV to seven women, two of whom subsequently died, has made legal history by becoming the first person ever to be convicted of first-degree murder for sexual HIV transmission. The case has reignited the criminalisation debate in Canada, which has prosecuted more HIV-positive individuals per capita for sexual HIV exposure or transmission than any other country in the world.
The trial, which lasted six months, concluded last Saturday, when a nine-man, three-woman jury found Johnson Aziga, 52, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, ten counts of aggravated sexual assault and one of attempted aggravated sexual assault after deliberating for three days.