Thu, Aug 04, 2011 - Page 7 News List

HIV-infected man in Canada could spend life in prison

AP, HAMILTON, Canada

A man convicted of murder through HIV transmission could spend the rest of his life in prison after a Canadian judge ruled on Tuesday he can’t be trusted to disclose his condition to future sexual partners.

Justice Thomas Lofchik granted the prosecution’s request to have Johnson Aziga declared a dangerous offender, a designation that means he could be imprisoned indefinitely.

Lofchik said he had to consider the man’s multiyear history of deception.

Aziga, a 55-year-old Ugandan immigrant, was believed to be the first person in Canada convicted of murder through the spread of HIV. He was convicted in 2009 of two counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault.

His most recent hearings dealt with the dangerous offender status. He will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for the murder convictions. However, the dangerous offender designation means he will not be released on parole until the parole board decides he is no longer a threat.

Aziga is appealing the murder convictions, but even if he is successful he could still be imprisoned indefinitely because the dangerous offender label applies to the assault charges.

His convictions are related to 11 women with whom he had unprotected sex without telling them he had HIV. Seven of the women became infected, with two dying of AIDS-related cancers.

Aziga admitted he had unprotected sex with the women without disclosing his illness, but maintains he can’t know for sure that he was the one who infected them.

After the decision was handed down on Tuesday, an agitated Aziga gave a rambling statement to the court, saying he wanted to renounce his Canadian citizenship and serve his sentence in Uganda or Kenya.

Aziga said while he “betrayed the trust of many,” he is not admitting any legal liability, adding that his “conscience is clear, unambiguous and unmistakable” on all charges.

Aziga, who has been in prison since his arrest in 2003, also asked to have “HIV positive” tattooed on the palms of his hands “so I can easily show it,” but Lofchik refused to grant his request.

One woman, a colleague of Aziga’s who had a relationship with him in the summer of 2001, videotaped a statement just before her death in December 2003 that was played as evidence. A second deceased woman recorded a statement prior to her death.

The UN AIDS program and AIDS activists oppose criminal prosecutions, arguing they unfairly stigmatize HIV carriers and rely on faulty assumptions about the nature of the virus’ transmission.

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