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.

Zimbabwe: HIV transmission via rape of minors ‘a major driver’ of HIV

A 16 year-old alleges that she was raped and infected with HIV by her 50 year-old brother-in-law. The man has since been arrested and charged with rape, but is out on bail.

“Victim Friendly Court national co-ordinator Mr Idine Magonga confirmed receipt of the complaint and bemoaned the prevalence of sexual offences against minors.

He said sexual offences against minors were now a major driver of the HIV/Aids pandemic because of the violence associated with rape.

According to the Sexual Offences Act, deliberately infecting someone with HIV/Aids is a serious criminal offence.

Mr Magonga urged members of the judiciary to be sensitive by fast-tracking such cases.

“In the event that the victim dies before the trial, the perpetrator would get away with it,” he said.”

Full story at allAfrica.com

Botswana: Belief that many are deliberately transmitting HIV fuels calls for criminal HIV transmission laws

Those That Sow HIV Deserve Prison

Voice journalist Naledi Mokgwathi, recently went out onto the streets of Gaborone to find out what B0tswanans think about the issue.

“People should be forced to test at intervals so that when someone accuses them of willfully transmitting the virus, records are brought up to see if the person knew their status.”

“It’s in line with murder, it’s like hurting someone severely and it deserves life imprisonment, because if they were to be let out of prison, they might continue doing the same thing.”

“It is going to be difficult to find out what really happened and if it was done intentionally.”

Full story at allAfrica.com

Australia: Editorial blames HIV crimes on ‘culture of misplaced political correctness’

Bureaucracy must be battle-ready to combat HIV/AIDS

December 10, 2007

FEW things are undeniably a matter of life and death, but the battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS is one. Unfortunately in Victoria, the fight against this insidious condition is taking place not only against the background of a disturbing increase in infection rates but also of concerns about how well equipped the state’s health bureaucracy is to manage it. In April this year, serious questions were raised about the administration of health policy after the sacking of chief health officer Dr Robert Hall by the then health minister, Bronwyn Pike.

Dr Hall was sacked over the alleged non-disclosure of three HIV-positive people under police investigation and for rejecting a recommendation from an advisory panel to the Department of Human Services that another HIV-positive person, Michael John Neal, be removed from the community. Neal is now before the courts on more than 100 charges, including allegations that he deliberately infected two men and tried to infect 14 others.

The affair was described by Michael Wooldridge, chairman of the Federal Ministerial Advisory Committee and a former federal health minister, as a “catastrophe”. For her part, Ms Pike would go only so far as to admit that the management of the Neal case had been bungled, and she quickly commissioned a review of the department’s handling of the case and the issues concerned, the most pressing being the breakdown in bureaucratic communication and the existence of conflicting protocols of disclosure.

The findings of that review, which was completed in September, have yet to be made public. But as The Age revealed on Saturday, the report provides disturbing evidence of a bureaucracy in disarray and urgently in need of reform if the risk to community health from any people who may recklessly seek to infect others with HIV is to be properly managed.

The review, by former West Australian police commissioner Bob Falconer, and a former senior bureaucrat with the Queensland Health Department, Dr John Scott, shows a department more concerned about not offending Melbourne’s gay community than about protecting broader public health. This hypersensitivity contributed to the department’s reluctance to use the criminal justice system to discipline HIV-positive people having unprotected sex.

The review also found that an entrenched fear of litigation from alleged offenders subject to public health orders or detention further undermined the effective handling of cases. (Ironically, some of Neal’s alleged victims have sought advice from Melbourne law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman about a possible class action against the department for negligence.)

Thankfully, this culture of misplaced political correctness has changed and DHS staff are now regularly referring cases of concern to the police. This can only be to the benefit of the wider community, whose interests should be paramount. However, the report makes it clear that several problems still exist, including the lack of a suitable facility to detain those felt to be “risky” and the absence of a proper communications protocol for keeping track of HIV-infected people who enter Australia and move between states. While the latter concern may raise understandable issues about privacy, the overriding aim must be to prevent the spread of infection.

The strongest weapon in the fight against HIV/AIDS is public awareness, and with this in mind, the Government must release as soon as possible the findings and recommendations of the Falconer report. The Government should then outline what action it plans to take over the recommendations. The right policies must be in place if the public’s confidence in the Department of Human Services is to be restored and, crucially, for Victoria to properly manage a rate of infection that is at its highest level in this state for two decades. There is no time to waste.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/12/09/1197135284016.html

Sweden: ‘The Sun’ on UK man charged with criminal HIV transmission

Brit hit with HIV sex rap

Published: 06 Oct 2007

A BRITISH sex beast was last night charged in Sweden with infecting two women with HIV and putting 14 more at risk.

Christer Merrill Aggett, 32, met the women on internet chatrooms.

He had unprotected sex with them without saying he was HIV-positive.

Tests showed 14 were not infected. At least six of the women were younger than 15 – Sweden’s age of consent.

Aggett confessed to aggravated assault and exposing others to danger between 2001 and 2006 – but not to having had sex with underage girls। If convicted he faces ten years in jail.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article303218.ece

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