Azerbaijan: 18 year-old girl accused of HIV transmission; UNICEF ‘alarmed’

Two reports from Azerbaijan news agencies are highlighting the case of 18-year-old Elnara Ahmadova, who faces sentencing tomorrow for ‘deliberate’ HIV transmission. The reports are somewhat confusing, but suggest that Elnara was diagnosed five years ago, and is/was a sex worker from an early age.

UNICEF has issued a statement which says it is “alarmed by the fact that the girl who is a victim of human trafficking, prostitution and pornography is being treated as a criminal.”

This report is from the Azeri-Press Agency.

Court to deliver sentence on case of Elnara Ahmadova accused of deliberately infecting 200 people with HIV in Azerbaijan

05 Feb 2008 17:30

On 6 February Nasimi district court will deliver a sentence on the case of an 18-year-old HIV-infected girl Elnara Ahmadova, facing criminal charges of deliberately infecting 200 people with the HIV. The court told APA that the trial will be held in the second half of the day.

Elnara Ahmadova faced charges under Article 140.1 (deliberately infecting a person with the HIV) of the Criminal Code. The person facing these charges may be punished by correctional labour up to two years, restriction of freedom up to two years, or imprisonment up to one year.

UNICEF Azerbaijan Country Office issued a statement concerning the trial of Elnara Ahmadova. “UNICEF is concerned that the girl child affected by the situations of sale, prostitution and pornography continued to be treated not as a victim, but as a perpetrator without any special protection. It is also regretful that the circumstances in which the minor girl was involved in prostitution could not be clarified,” the statement says.

UNICEF believes that children alleged to have committed crimes while they were children should be considered primarily as victims of adults who have broken international law by recruiting and using children in sexual exploitation in the first place, and that these children must be provided with assistance for their social reintegration.

“If in contact with a justice system, persons under 18 at the time of the alleged offense must be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards which provide them with special protection. UNICEF calls for making all efforts to ensure the human rights and dignity of the girl victim and provide her with every opportunity available for rehabilitation and protection against all kinds of discrimination and stigmatization,” the statement says.

This shorter report is from Trend News Agency.

UNICEF Alarmed by Conviction of Azerbaijani AIDS Carrier Girl
05.02.08 18:14

Azerbaijan, Baku, 5 February / Т corr F. Rzayev / The International organization UNICEF expressed its concern over the conviction of an Azerbaijani girl Elnara Ahmadova, 18, who is accused of deliberating spreading the HIV/AIDS infection.

“UNICEF is alarmed by the fact that the girl who is a victim of human trafficking, prostitution and pornography is being treated as a criminal,” the organization reported on 5 February.

On 6 February, the Nasimi District Court in Baku will voice a verdict on the case of Ahmadova, who is accused of contravening Article 140.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan (deliberately endangering others through HIV infection).

In 2003, Ahmadova was registered at the AIDS Centre. She was detained in July and accused of infecting over 100 men, mainly between 20-25 years old.

Egypt: Human Rights Watch highlights criminalisation of people with HIV

This blog is largely concerned with prosecutions for HIV exposure or transmission; often we refer to this in short-hand as ‘the criminalisation of HIV’.

But, according to a devastating news report today from Human Rights Watch, Egypt has criminalised people with HIV, after testing them without their consent.

The full, harrowing, report is below.

Egypt: Stop Criminalizing HIV

HIV-Motivated Arrests and Convictions Threaten Justice and Public Health

(New York, February 5, 2008) – A series of arrests in Cairo sparked by one man’s admission to police that he was HIV-positive endangers public health as well as human rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch called on Egyptian authorities to overturn the convictions of four men for the “habitual practice of debauchery,” and to free four others who are held pending trial. The government should end arbitrary arrests based on HIV status and take steps to end prejudice and misinformation about HIV/AIDS.

“These shocking arrests and trials embody both ignorance and injustice,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Egypt threatens not just its international reputation but its own population if it responds to the HIV/AIDS epidemic with prison terms instead of prevention and care.”

The arrests began in October 2007, when police stopped two men having an altercation on a street in central Cairo. When one of them told the officers that he was HIV-positive, police immediately took them both to the Morality Police office and opened an investigation against them for homosexual conduct. The two men told human rights defenders that they were slapped and beaten for refusing to sign statements the police wrote for them. They spent four days in the Morality Police office handcuffed to an iron desk, sleeping on the floor. Police later subjected the two men to forensic anal examinations designed to “prove” that they had engaged in homosexual conduct.

Human Rights Watch has documented that such examinations to detect “evidence” of homosexuality are not only medically spurious but constitute torture.

Police then arrested two more men because their photographs or telephone numbers were found on the first two detainees. Authorities subjected all to HIV tests without their consent. All four are still in detention, pending prosecutors’ decision on whether to bring charges of homosexual conduct. The first two arrestees, who reportedly tested HIV-positive, are being held in a Cairo hospital, handcuffed to their beds and only unchained for an hour each day.

Meanwhile, police apparently placed the apartment where one of the men had lived under surveillance. On November 20, two days after a new tenant had assumed the lease, police raided the apartment and detained four other men.

According to the arrest report, the men were fully dressed and were not engaging in any illegal acts at the time of the arrests. However, all were charged with homosexual conduct, apparently solely on the basis that they were found in a dwelling formerly occupied by one of the earlier detainees.

People who have spoken to the four men since their arrest told Human Rights Watch that a non-commissioned officer in the police station beat one detainee on the head several times. Police allegedly forced the four men to stand in a painful position for three hours with their arms lifted in the air. They were provided no food, drink, or blankets during their first four days of detention. Authorities also tested these men for HIV without their consent. One of the men reportedly said that the prosecutor, when informing him that he had tested positive for HIV, told him: “People like you should be burnt alive. You do not deserve to live.”

A Cairo court convicted these four men on January 13, 2008 under Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961, which criminalizes the “habitual practice of debauchery [fujur] – a term used to penalize consensual homosexual conduct in Egyptian law. According to defense attorneys, the prosecution based their case only on coerced and repudiated statements taken from the men, and neither called witnesses nor produced other evidence to counter the men’s pleas of not guilty. On February 2, 2008, a Cairo appeals court upheld their one-year prison sentence. One of them is held in a Cairo hospital, chained to his bed 23 hours a day.

“These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished,” said Long. “HIV tests forcibly taken without consent, ill-treatment in detention, trials driven by prejudice, and convictions without evidence all violate international law.”

In private letters sent to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, Counselor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud Abdel Meguid, on November 29, 2007 and on January 8, 2008, Human Rights Watch expressed its grave concern about the arrests and their consequences for Egypt’s efforts against HIV/AIDS.

Human Rights Watch urged authorities to drop the charges, end the practice of chaining detainees in hospital, and ensure that the men receive the highest available standard of medical care for any serious health conditions. It also urged Egypt to undertake training for all criminal-justice officials on medical facts and international human rights standards in relation to HIV, and to halt immediately all testing of detainees without their consent.

Criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates human rights protections to individual privacy and personal autonomy under international law. The apparent use of Article 9(c) in these cases to detain people on the basis of their declared HIV status, and to test them without their consent for HIV infection, also violates those international protections, and the right to bodily autonomy.

International human rights law clearly affirms that prisoners and detainees retain the absolute right to protection against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment – and enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health, as guaranteed in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Egypt has been party since 1982.



Australia: Canberra public health officials name (and shame) HIV-positive male sex worker

Public health officials in Canberra have taken the unusual step of holding a press conference to announce that a male sex worker who was charged with “knowingly” transmitting an (unnamed) sexually transmitted infection earlier this month is HIV-positive.

It is unclear from the reports whether the 41 year-old man is, in fact, charged with criminal HIV exposure or transmission; rather, the Canberra health department is appealing for former clients to come forward, even though they already have a list of 250 phone numbers obtained from the man, which they said they would be calling after the press conference.

“It is a very unusual step to take to mention the diagnosis of this kind in the interest of privacy but we will be calling people this afternoon and discussing this diagnosis with them so we know that it will be in the public domain today so therefore I’ll share that with you,” ACT Chief Health Officer Charles Guest told the press conference.

Of the two news reports online so far, ABC News online’s also includes a photo of the man.

To me, this kind of ‘contact tracing’ – where an HIV-positive individual is named and his picture publicised – seems more like a ‘fishing expedition’ than an ethical public health measure.

These are the reports from The Herald Sun and ABC News online.

Sex worker exposes 250 to HIV

HEALTH officials are trying to contact 250 people who may have been exposed to HIV by a sex worker.

Hector Scott, 41, of Kingston appeared in ACT Magistrates Court earlier this month charged with knowingly infecting someone with a sexually transmitted disease and failing to register as a sex worker.

At the time, the details of the disease were not known.

ACT Chief Health Officer Charles Guest said today Mr Scott had Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

“It is a very unusual step to take to mention the diagnosis of this kind in the interest of privacy but we will be calling people this afternoon and discussing this diagnosis with them so we know that it will be in the public domain today so therefore I’ll share that with you,” Dr Guest said at a press conference.

“HIV positive since 1999”

The health department first became aware of Mr Scott’s actions on December 20 last year when notified by another jurisdiction. The department alerted police within 24 hours.

But Mr Scott was not issued with a public health order – to stop working as a prostitute – until January 4, when he was arrested.

Dr Guest said there was evidence Mr Scott had been HIV positive for some years, possibly since 1999.

During 2007 he advertised himself as a prostitute in Canberra media using the names “Adam” and “Josh” but was unregistered as a sex worker.

Could be less

“Bear in mind please 250 is just the number of phone numbers and he may have been phoning family friends, businesses – there are all sorts of other reasons,” Dr Guest said.

“That may be a very inflated figure of the number of people that he had sex with or unprotected sex with.”

Dr Guest would not say how the contacts were obtained and said many of the phone numbers being used were mobiles so it was unclear whether all of the potential victims were from the ACT.

“We will be exploring that nature of their contact very delicately with them – we have skilled counsellors and clinicians involved in this process,” he said.

Counselling

The people contacted will be invited to be counselled and tested for sexually-transmitted infections.

Dr Guest said the whole situation was just a reminder of the importance of safe sex.

“There is a general message here about safe sex and entering into casual sexual relationships – assume that safe sex, protection, use of condoms is essential.”

Mr Scott is due to reappear in the ACT Magistrates Court for a mention on February 7.

Charged sex worker has HIV: ACT Health

ACT Health has confirmed Canberra sex worker Hector Scott has HIV.

The 41-year-old from Kingston faced court earlier this month charged with knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted disease and failing to register as a sex worker.

It is believed Scott may have contracted the disease in 1999.

Authorities have a list of 250 phone numbers of people who may have been in contact with the sex worker, but they say not all are at risk.

ACT Chief Health Officer Doctor Charles Guest says counsellors have started calling people on the list after receiving very few calls to a helpline it set up.

“The extraordinary effort that we’re taking to communicate with people who may have been in contact with the sex worker has led us now to start calling people and advising them to be tested and explaining what the consequences of the testing would be,” he said.

ACT Health has notified other states and territory authorities to help track down Scott’s interstate clients.

New Zealand police have also joined the investigation after Scott spent a week there over Christmas.

Anyone who may have had contact with the man, who advertised under the names Adam and Josh, is urged to call the hotline on xxx xxxx xxx.

Scott is due back in court next month.

US: South Dakota makes ‘HIV criminals’ sex offenders, too

The South Dakota Senate voted unanimously last Thursday to register as sex offenders people who have already been convicted of the state law against ‘intentional’ HIV exposure/transmission.

This, according to writer Thomas Heald in a blog published before the vote, would “add the punishment of sex offender status, thus adding a ‘Scarlet Letter’ to their conviction, which would add restrictions on where they could live (1000 feet of schools churches, etc.), and allow neighborhood searching and registration so that families can “protect themselves” and/or unofficially harass the offender.”

The Act (SB65) to define intentional exposure to HIV infection by sexual intercourse as a sex crime subject to registry as a sex offender’ has now amended its sex offender law (§ 22-24B-1) by adding the following clause: “Intentional exposure to HIV infection as set forth in subdivision § 22-18-31 South Dakota Codified Laws.”

§ 22-18-31 is ‘intentional exposure to HIV infection’, a Class 3 felony (punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine) which criminalises “any person who, knowing himself or herself to be infected with HIV, intentionally exposes another person to infection by…engaging in sexual intercourse or other intimate physical contact with another person.”

The report, from the Associated Press/Rapid City Journal, gets its facts wrong, and says the law is about “intentionally infecting sex partners”. Sadly, this has been repeated in other reports, including those at Poz.com.

Much, much worse, of course, is the ignorance of South Dakota’s lawmakers, including Senator Sandy Jerstad – author of this latest Act – who has conflated HIV exposure with HIV infection and thinks that people exposed to HIV will “have to take HIV tests for years (although a negative antibody test six months after exposure is enough to know that HIV infection has not taken place) and they live with the consequences of this crime for the rest of their lives.”

The latter is possibly true – if someone has been found guilty of this ‘crime’ through a fair trial – but surely this is true only if the ‘victim’ has become HIV-positive. Or is she suggesting that simply having sex with someone who is HIV-positive results in life long trauma?

The full Associated Press/Rapid City Journal report is below.

Senate approves HIV legislation

By The Associated Press

PIERRE — The South Dakota Senate decided Thursday that people who are convicted of intentionally infecting sex partners with the AIDS virus should have to register as sex offenders after release from prison.

Sen. Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, said that would warn the public about the danger those people present.

“There’ll always be a certain small portion of our population who set out to intentionally harm others by committing sex crimes,” she said.

Two people in the state have been convicted of intentionally infecting others with HIV, Jerstad said.

She said the maximum prison term for the crime is 15 years in prison, but the victims must face the fear that they’ll get AIDS.

“Those victims will have to take HIV tests for years, and they live with the consequences of this crime for the rest of their lives,” Jerstad said.

SB65 cleared the Senate 34-0, sending the legislation to the House.

South Africa: New rape laws mandate HIV testing for alleged offender

From March South Africa’s new Sexual Offenses Amendment Act will allow victims of rape to apply for a court order to force their alleged attacker to take an HIV (antibody?) test.

“The bill was approved by parliament before it went into recess last month after being held up for more than a year because of technical legal problems over the clauses about compulsory HIV tests for sexual offenders.

The revised legislation said all victims should be entitled to apply for a court order to compel the alleged sex offender to take an AIDS test, and should get free medication immediately after the rape to reduce the risks of contracting the virus. Given the delay in HIV infection showing up in tests, many women currently face weeks of agonized uncertainty over whether their attacker carried the deadly virus.

The provisions on AIDS testing will take effect in March because of the legal complexities involved, the Justice Ministry said.”

Full story from the Associated Press here.