US: Texas man who pled guilty to murdering woman after learning she had HIV sentenced to 50 years

A Lufkin man has accepted a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to killing a woman after learning she had HIV after he had sex with her. Justin Welch, 23, entered the plea in District Judge Bob Inselmann’s courtroom. “Guilty,” Welch said. “Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Yes sir,” Welch said.

Welch was arrested in June in San Antonio after the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest for first-degree murder of Elisha Henson, 30. An arrest affidavit states Welch killed her after he learned she had HIV and they had already had sex.

According to another arrest affidavit, Welch’s co-conspirator, Rosalind Smith, told investigators the three of them were getting high on meth when Smith talked to Henson about her having HIV. Welch appeared to have heard the conversation and “appeared astonished to know” Henson had HIV. Smith told investigators that Welch later told her that Henson was dead. Smith is accused of disposing of the body in Rivercrest.

Smith is scheduled for jury selection on Jan. 20.

Welch’s Lawyer Al Charanza said that Welch was remorseful for what he did. But Hensen’s mom, Brenda Carrell, said the damage is done. After Welch pleaded guilty, Hensen’s mother gave her impact statement. “You have no heart.” Carrell said. “You are a killer in my eyes.You must pay for what you did. Elisha was a mother of two amazing boys, who today have a grave to visit.” “I am sorry,” Welch said.

South Africa: Forced or involuntary disclosure in healthcare settings disproportionately affecting women resulting in discrimination and gender-based violence, despite constitutional protections

Editor’s note: This story is part of a Special Report produced by The GroundTruth Project called “Laws of Men: Legal systems that fail women.” It is produced with support from the Ford Foundation. Reported by Tracy Jarrett and Emily Judem.

An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, thanks to advances in medicine and treatment in the last 30 years. But stigma against HIV/AIDS and fear of discrimination still run strong in South Africa, despite legal protections, as well as drastically improved treatment, prevention techniques and education. Today an estimated 19 percent of South African adults ages 15-49 are living with HIV.

And women, who represent about 60 percent of people living with HIV in South Africa, face a disproportionately large array of consequences, including physical violence and abuse.

“Upon disclosure of women’s HIV positive status,” reads a 2012 study by the AIDS Legal Network on gender violence and HIV, “women’s lives change, due to fear and the continuum of violence and abuse perpetrated against them.”

Although forced or involuntary disclosure of one’s HIV status — along with any discrimination that may result from that disclosure — was made illegal by South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, experts and advocates say that public knowledge of these laws is limited and the legal system is not equipped to implement them.

Not only are women disproportionately affected by HIV, but they are also more likely to know their status. More women get tested, said Rukia Cornelius, community education and mobilization manager at the NGO Sonke Gender Justice, based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, because unlike men, women need antenatal care.

And often, she said, clinics give women HIV tests when they come in for prenatal visits.

The way hospitals and clinics are set up also are not always conducive to protecting privacy, said Alexandra Muller, researcher at the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

“People who provide services in the public system, at the community level, are community members,” said Muller. “This is an important dynamic when we think about stigma and disclosure.”

Doctors and nurses can see 60 to 80 patients per day in an overcrowded facility with shared consultation rooms, Muller said.

“There’s not a lot of consideration for how is a clinic set up,” added Cornelius, so that “a health care worker who has done your test and knows your status doesn’t shout across the room to the other health care worker, ‘okay, this one’s HIV-positive, that file goes over there.’”

Once HIV-positive women disclose their status, willingly or not,they are disproportionately affected by stigma because of the direct link between HIV and gender violence.