A 28-year-old man has been charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder for failing to disclose his HIV status to a male sexual partner.
The man was arrested by officers of Toronto’s 32 division on Wednesday.
“We have reason to believe he attended Church and Wellesley and may have actually engaged in sexual activities without disclosing his HIV status,” said Const Brad Stapleton of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit at a May 7 press conference.
The purpose of the press conference was to issue a public safety alert. The police are looking to speak to anyone who may have had sex with the accused.
According to Stapleton police have reason to believe the accused has been HIV-positive since 2000 and that he’s been frequenting the gaybourhood for the past five years.
Stapleton declined to get into the details of the charges.
“I can’t get into the victim’s circumstances, just that there is a victim,” he said.
The accused is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing on Tue, May 12.
“It’s definitely concerning that attempted murder charges have been laid and we’re waiting anxiously along with everyone else for the details,” says Alison Symington, senior policy analyst for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
“The question is why attempted murder in this case if it is otherwise consensual sex with HIV nondisclosure? Why would it be an attempted murder rather than aggravated assault at this point? Until we have more details it’s hard to guess what has happened.”
The charges come a month after a Hamilton man was convicted of murder for failing to disclose his HIV status to his female partners. On Apr 4 Johnson Aziga, 52, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault.
In the wake of the Aziga conviction advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS were cautioning restraint in the use of criminal charges when it comes to HIV nondisclosure, arguing that it may actually hamper prevention efforts.
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“I fear it gives the general public more vulnerability to HIV infection by giving them a false sense of security that criminal law will act as a deterrent to people engaging in high-risk sexual activities without disclosing their status,” said Angel Parks, coordinator of the AIDS Committee of Toronto’s Positive Youth Outreach program, at the time of the Aziga verdict. “Whereas we know there have been some studies that show… the majority of cases of transmission actually occur before a person has been diagnosed. It’s when they’re most infectious and before they have anything to disclose to their partner.”
In the wake of the attempted murder charges Symington says the network will continue to try to clarify this emerging area of law.
“Criminal law is our most powerful tool in our society,” she says. “When an area of law develops like this without reflection and in ways that are inconsistent… that causes concern about how our criminal justice system is working.
“From our perspective we’re still working for the same things: To get quality research on the impacts of this area of law, to get an informed rational policy debate that would help toward guidelines to make the law develop in a more rational way and working in actual cases for judicial decisions that would clarify uncertainties in the law.”