WHAT IS THIS ABOUT:
This is a fundraising project being organized by a friend of mine who brought her daughter home from Ethiopia over 1.5 years ago. She is planning a return trip to Ethiopia this coming October with Canadian Humanitarian`s expedition team!
Canadian Humanitarian (CHOIR), is a non-profit organization that has a variety of projects that supports children and families in Addis, the capital of Ethiopia and other rural areas. Initiatives such as child sponsorship, along with medical and educational progrmas have a significant and positive impact on lhe lives of the children and families in Ethiopia. You can learn more about them at Canadianhumanitarian.com. They are truly amazing!
I will be apart of the a Canadian Humanitarian Expedition team traveling to Ethiopia for 2 weeks in October to volunteer our time and skills to a variety of their projects. I am currently fundraising for this expedition. Funds raised go towards travel expenses and a sizable donation to the projects! Canadian Humanitarian uses funds raised to support the programs!
HAND MADE ETHIOPIAN NECKLACES WITH A TWIST:
The twist is that a person`s single contribution will work hard by actually supporting two organizations, both of whom are working hard in Ethiopia; Mission Ethiopia and Canadian Humanitarian. I custom ordered the necklaces from Mission Ethiopia (missionethiopia.com). Their jewelry program supports empowerment through sustainable jobs for women in Ethiopia. The women who craft these beautiful necklaces benefit directly from their employment. Then, the funds raised from the necklaces will inturn be used by Canadian Humanitarian to support their expedition work in Ethiopia! So, purchasing a necklace or two helps two organizations, having twice the impact in Ethiopia!
ABOUT THE NECKLACES:
As you can see from the photos below, the necklaces are one-of-a-kind and well-crafted. They are really beautiful!
They are hand made by Ethiopian women, and there are four to choose from:
1) Ethiopian Cross- black clay beads, Ethiopian cross, 18 inches long
2) Lots of Swirls – swirl paper beads, clear spacers, 29 inches long *note – photo shows a much longer double strand, this is a single strand.
3) Spring Fun – bright colour paper beads, black and white spacers, 29 inches long
4) One Can Make A Difference- Black clay beads, single red bead, nickel spacers, 29 inches long
THESE WOULD MAKE FABULOUS MOTHER’S DAY PRESENTS!
COST: You get to determine how much you would like to purchase a necklace for! The minimum is $25 per necklace (plus $3 for postage if you would like them mailed to you).
HOW TO ORDER: If you would like to order a necklace, just email me your order to email@example.com and we can arrange payment (cheques are perfectly fine) and delivery.
ORDERS NEED TO BE RECEIVED BY MAY 15TH!
If you would like to make a cash donation instead of purchasing a necklace, that is also a great option (and a tax receipt can be issued).
If you are not interested, that is okay, at least you have learned about two really neat organizations making a difference in Ethiopia.
Thanks so much for any support ! I am so looking forward to returning to Ethiopia and working with the families and children!
An Information Evening presented by The Children’s Bridge Adoption Consultants
Adopting a Child Living with HIV
Saturday, April 20th, 2013 in Mississauga, Ontario
Join us from 6:30 – 8:30pm!
Learn More About: basic facts such as: HIV transmission, treatment and risks, parenting a child living with HIV, psycho-social issues such as stigma, discrimination and disclosure, anti-retroviral treatments including information regarding provincial drug plans and insurance. Come away with knowledge regarding resources and supports for families within Ontario, as well as details regarding the adoption process, such as which countries/programs are available, the citizenship and immigration process, and including HIV in your homestudy.
Please note: This event is open to any families planning to adopt a child living with HIV, and not just those families in process with The Children’ Bridge.
For more information or to register please go to: http://www.childrensbridge.com/pages/upcomingevents.html
Expectations and Realities: Parenting an Adopted Child with Special Needs – Live Webinar
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Is your child emotionally acting much younger than their age? Have special needs you weren’t expecting? Behaviors that resemble ADHD?
You are not alone. These challenges are common for post- institutionalized children. Finding help, however, can be difficult.
Join a webinar featuring Martha Osborne, adopted person, adoptive mom and founder of the largest special needs adoption advocacy website, RainbowKids.com. Martha will lead an “in the trenches” discussion on how parents can get connected and supported.
•Learn how to build a plan to manage undiagnosed special needs
•Consider new, outside the box suggestions on how to address unexpected cognitive and emotional delays
•Understand how proactive parenting can help
Live Webinar on Thursday, January 17, 2013. To learn more or to register, click here.
Teresa Group: “Putting the Pieces Together” is a montage of photos and interviews from the Children and HIV: Closing the Gap – Ending Vertical Transmission through Community Action Symposium, jointly hosted by The Teresa Group, the Coalition on Children Affected by AIDS (CCABA), and the Global Fund for Children, held in Washington D.C. on July 20th and 21st, 2012. The montage can be viewed at: http://www.teresagroup.ca/gallery_washington.html
For a list of the services the Teresa Group offers to families affected by HIV/AIDS, please see: https://teresagr.ipower.com/programs.html
Criminal Law and HIV Non-Disclosure: A response to the October 2012 Supreme Court of Canada Ruling
On October 5, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released important decisions in two cases of HIV non-disclosure. Rather than clarifying its earlier ruling (R. v. Cuerrier, 1998) that people living with HIV/AIDS had a legal duty to disclose their HIV status before having sex posing a “significant risk” of serious bodily harm (i.e. HIV transmission), this new decision now requires that people must disclose their HIV-positive status before having sexual relations that pose a “realistic possibility” of HIV transmission. But the Court also found that almost any risk is “realistic,” no matter how small. Additional confusion surrounds the fact that the cases before the Supreme Court only dealt with HIV non-disclosure in the context of vaginal sex; it is not clear how the test of a “realistic possibility of transmission” will be applied to other sexual acts such as oral or anal sex.
ACT continues to believe that criminal law is an ineffective and inappropriate tool with which to address HIV non-disclosure. HIV/AIDS is an individual and public health issue first and foremost, and should be addressed as such. Criminal charges do little or nothing to stem the spread of HIV, but do divert resources and attention away from the policies and initiatives that have been proven to reduce HIV transmission and improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Given the most recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling, and the increased number of criminal charges and prosecutions related to HIV non-disclosure in Canada, ACT supports the establishment of prosecutorial guidelines for HIV non-disclosure. Such guidelines should be informed by current scientific evidence and take into account the objectives of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – and should ensure that criminal charges are only laid when warranted. Decisions by Crown Counsel under prosecutorial guidelines would influence the charges that police lay, whether a case goes to court and how a case is presented in court.
In its 1998 decision in R. v. Cuerrier, the Court decided that people living with HIV/AIDS had a legal duty to disclose their HIV status before having sex posing a “significant risk” of serious bodily harm (i.e., HIV transmission). The Court further suggested that the use of condoms may reduce the risks of HIV transmission such that there may be no duty to disclose; however, they did not definitively decide on this issue. Since that time, a majority of the decisions of lower courts that considered this issue — including the Court of Appeal of Manitoba in R. v. Mabior — ruled that condom-use alone was enough to preclude criminal liability. Yet, in too many other cases, scientific evidence on HIV risks of transmission was disregarded. Some people were charged and/or convicted in cases where the risk of transmission was exceedingly low (e.g., oral sex). The “significant risk” test adopted in Cuerrier resulted in a great deal of uncertainty and unfairness for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In R. v. Mabior and R. v. D.C., the Supreme Court of Canada had the opportunity to clarify the law in accordance with the current science of HIV transmission and treatment. Unfortunately, it did not. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on October 5, 2012 that people living with HIV/AIDS must disclose their status before having sexual relations that pose a “realistic possibility” of HIV transmission. But in the Court’s view, a “realistic possibility” encompasses almost any risk, no matter how small.
Based on the Court’s decisions, people living with HIV/AIDS now have a legal duty to disclose their status before:
▪ having vaginal sex without a condom (regardless of their viral load); or
▪ having vaginal sex with anything higher than a “low” viral load (even if they use a condom).
The court defined a “low viral load” as having less than 1,500 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood. The Court did not consider either anal sex or oral sex in its ruling. Anal sex poses higher risks of transmission than vaginal sex, so the duty to disclose is at least as strict as for vaginal sex. In other words, you have a duty to disclose before having unprotected anal sex or when your viral load is higher than “low.” According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, it might be the case that, as with vaginal sex, if you use a condom and your viral load is low you do not have a legal duty to disclose. But at this time, we can’t say for certain if satisfying both these requirements (condom use plus a low viral load) will be enough to avoid convictions in the case of anal sex. 1
Oral sex (without a condom) is usually considered very low risk (i.e., an estimated risk ranging from 0 to 0.04%). We don’t know at this point whether courts will find that there is a duty to disclose before oral sex without a condom. We also do not know whether it makes a legal difference if you are receiving or performing oral sex, or whether the amount of semen or vaginal fluid that the person performing oral sex is exposed to can make a legal difference 2.
ACT continues to believe that criminal law is an ineffective and inappropriate tool with which to address HIV non-disclosure. HIV/AIDS is an individual and public health issue first and foremost, and should be addressed as such. With this recent ruling, people with inadequate access to care, treatment and support may not be able to establish a low viral load. If they do not or cannot disclose their status — due to fear of violence or other negative consequences — they may face criminal prosecution, imprisonment and sexual offender registration.
Criminal charges do little or nothing to stem the spread of HIV, but do divert resources and attention away from the policies and initiatives that have been proven to reduce HIV transmission and improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS (e.g., education, testing, support services, access to safer sex and harm reduction materials, and programs to address stigma, discrimination, poverty and violence).
Most people living with HIV/AIDS practice safe sex and safe drug use, and/or disclose their HIV-positive status to their sexual and/or drug-using partners. It is everyone’s responsibility, whether they know their HIV status or not, to ensure that HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are not transmitted. Criminalization disproportionately places the responsibility for preventing HIV transmission on people living with HIV/AIDS.
The use of the criminal law as a response to non-disclosure fails to acknowledge the significance of factors such as awareness about HIV, homophobia, sexism, racism, HIV stigma and discrimination, and other social determinants of health that impact on an individual’s ability to take HIV prevention precautions and/or to disclose their status.
Given the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling, and the increased number of criminal charges and prosecutions related to HIV non-disclosure in Canada, ACT supports the establishment of evidence‐informed prosecutorial guidelines. 3
These guidelines should be informed by current scientific evidence and take into account the objectives of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – and should ensure that criminal charges are only laid when warranted. The provincial Attorney General issues prosecutorial guidelines to assist Crown Counsel in making decisions and to promote high standards and consistency in how criminal cases are handled. Prosecutorial guidelines for case of HIV non-disclosure would provide the overall philosophy, direction and priorities of the Attorney General and set out detailed practice guidance for Crown Counsel. Decisions by Crown Counsel under prosecutorial guidelines would influence the charges that police lay, whether a case goes to court, and how a case is presented in court.
1. HIV non-disclosure and criminal law: Implications of recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions for people living with HIV. Canadian HIV AIDS Legal Network: http://www.aidslaw.ca/publications/interfaces/downloadFile.php?ref=2085
3. Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure: http://ontarioaidsnetwork.on.ca/clhe
Here are some examples of derogatory or inaccurate terms, together with suggestions of alternative terms and phrases:
USE: HIV INFECTION, HIV POSITIVE, HIV/AIDS
DON’T USE: “AIDS” IF THE INTENTION IS TO REFER TO HIV
AIDS is a range of conditions which occur when a person’s immune system is seriously damaged by HIV infection. Someone who has HIV infection has antibodies to the virus but may not have developed any of the illnesses which constitute AIDS.
DON’T USE: AIDS VIRUS, HIV VIRUS
There is no such thing as the AIDS virus. There is only HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) – the virus that can cause AIDS. The term “HIV virus” actually means Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus, which is not correct.
USE: PERSON WITH HIV OR PERSON LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS (PHA) OR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS (PHAs)
DON’T USE: AIDS VICTIM OR SUFFERER
Many people living with HIV/AIDS feel these terms imply they are powerless, with no control over their lives.
DON’T USE: AIDS CARRIER
This term is highly offensive and stigmatizing to many people with HIV and AIDS. It is also incorrect: the infective agent is HIV. You can’t just catch AIDS. This term may also give the impression that people can protect themselves choosing a partner based on their appearance or by avoiding someone who they know has AIDS.
USE: PERSON WITH AIDS, OR PERSON WITH HIV INFECTION
DON’T USE: FULL BLOWN AIDS
This term implies there is such a thing as “half-blown AIDS”. A person only has AIDS when they present with an AIDS-defining illness such as an opportunistic infection.
USE: AFFECTED COMMUNITIES, HIGH RISK BEHAVIOUR (UNSAFE SEX, SHARING NEEDLES)
DON’T USE: HIGH RISK GROUP
This implies that membership of a particular group, rather than behaviour, is the significant factor in HIV commission. This term may lull people who don’t identify with a high risk group into a false sense of security. It is high risk behaviours such as unsafe sex or unsafe injecting practices that can spread HIV, not high risk groups.
USE: PEOPLE WITH MEDICALLY ACQUIRED HIV OR AIDS, CHILDREN WITH HIV OR HIV POSITIVE PEOPLE
DON’T USE: INNOCENT VICTIMS
Usually used to describe HIV positive children or people with medically acquired HIV infection (through blood transfusions etc). It wrongly implies that people infected in other ways are guilty of some wrong-doing and somehow deserving of punishment. This feeds discrimination, particularly homophobia, and should be avoided.
USE: For your country, i.e. Sri Lanka or Jamaica, use: SRI LANKAN POPULATION/JAMAICAN POPULATION, HIV NEGATIVE PEOPLE, ALL SRI LANKANS/ALL JAMAICANS
DON’T USE: GENERAL POPULATION
This implies that people in the populations targeted for HIV prevention, education and care are not part of the general population. It artificially divides the world into those who are infected, or at risk of HIV infection and those who are not, and falsely implies that identity, rather than behaviour, is the critical factor in HIV transmission.
USE: BLOOD, SEMEN, PRE-EJACULATE, VAGINAL FLUIDS, BREAST MILK
DON’T USE: BODY FLUIDS
Confusion about the body fluids that can transmit HIV is a common cause of fear and misunderstanding about HIV and continues to cause discrimination against PHAs. Always explain which body fluids contain HIV in sufficient concentration to be implicated in HIV transmission (i.e. blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluids and breast milk). HIV cannot be transmitted through body fluids such as saliva, sweat, tears or urine.
USE: PERSON LIVING WITH HIV OR AIDS, HIV POSITIVE PERSON
DON’T USE: AIDS PATIENT
Use “AIDS patient” only to describe someone who has AIDS and who is, in the context of the story, in a medical setting. Most of the time, a PHA is not in the role of a patient.
USE: SEX WORKER
DON’T USE: PROSTITUTE
Prostitute is considered a disparaging term and does not reflect the fact that sex work is a form of employment for a sex worker, not a way of life.
USE: STREET WORKER
DON’T USE: STREET WALKER
Again, the term street walker does not represent the employment aspect of sex work, and is therefore derogatory and misleading.
USE: PERSON WHO INJECTS DRUGS, PEOPLE WHO INJECT DRUGS, INJECTION DRUG USER
DON’T USE: JUNKIE, DRUG ADDICT
Illicit drug use is only one part of an injection drug user’s life. Terms such as junkie rely on a stereotyped image which is not accurate.
Don’t miss this special event!
On Saturday, April 14th, 2012
Adopting a Child Living with HIV
An Information Evening presented
by The Children’s Bridge
This information evening is aimed at providing information to those who are considering, or are already in process of adopting a child living with HIV, or for family and/or friends of the adopting family who wish to learn more. This event will also be useful to adoption practitioners, or those in the field who will be working closely and supporting families parenting a child lving with HIV. Please note: This event is open to any families planning to adopt a child living with HIV, and not just those families in process with The Children’ Bridge.
Special Guest Speaker: Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik -
Masai Centre, Guelph, HIV/AIDS pediatrician)
When: Saturday, April 14th, 2012, 7:00PM to 9:00PM
Where: Holiday Inn, 2565 Argentia Road, Mississauga, Ontario
Suggested Donation: $10/person or $20/family to the Bracelet of Hope
RSVP: by April 6th, 2012 – Karyn Bakelaar (Program Manager HIV & Kids Adoption Program) – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for something to inspire you (and who isn’t in the dark month of February!), I highly suggest checking out “Celebrating Agents of Change in the HIV/AIDS Community” – an online publication which highlights leaders and activists such as Dr. Zadjlik (Bracelet of Hope/Masai Centre) and Dr. Kilby (Canada Africa Community Health Alliance).
Click here for the online version:
8 Surprising Facts About Adopting HIV-Positive Kids
BY Jennifer Fulwiler
It’s always nice to come across good news for a change, so I was excited to see this article on MSNBC about how more families are adopting HIV-positive children (don’t miss the great video at the bottom). Up until recently, I didn’t know that anyone could or did adopt children who were HIV positive. I assumed that it was too difficult, too risky, too expensive and maybe even illegal; and, sadly, I was also ignorant of the sheer number of HIV-positive children out there who need homes.
Then I met a local couple who, after a long and careful discernment, felt called to welcome two HIV-positive children into their home (they shared their story with me here). Ever since then I’ve followed the lives of my local friends and some bloggers I discovered who are raising HIV-positive children, and through their stories I’ve learned a lot about the subject. Seeing the lives of these families has dispelled a lot of the misconceptions I used to have on the subject, and I thought it might be helpful to write up a summary of some of the facts I found most surprising and interesting for those who might be as unfamiliar with the subject as I was:
1. HIV-positive orphans often have almost no chance of being adopted in their home countries
Even though there’s still plenty of misinformation about the subject here in the United States, our understanding of HIV/AIDS is much further along than that of many countries. Unfortunately, many of the areas of the world where there are the highest numbers of HIV-positive children needing homes are areas where people with the disease face the biggest stigmas.
2. Children with HIV who have access to good medical care usually have normal life expectancies
HIV is no longer considered a terminal illness, and is thought of by the medical community more as a chronic condition like Type I diabetes. According to the National Institute of Health, the life expectancy of HIV-positive people who have access to medical care is about the same as non-infected people.
3. There has never been a case of someone contracting HIV through normal household contact
You cannot get HIV from sharing food and drinks or using the same bed or toilet as an HIV-positive person. You also can’t contract it from changing diapers, hugging, kissing, or from bathing or swimming with someone who’s infected with the virus.
4. Modern drug therapies can render the HIV virus almost undetectable
My friend who is the mother of two HIV-positive children tells me, “On average, only one week after beginning HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), 90% of all HIV in the body is gone; within one month, 99% is gone.” Related to the above, this also makes the disease much less likely to be transmitted, even in cases of blood contact.
5. It is usually possible to get health insurance for HIV positive kids
In most situations, it’s required by law that health insurance cover adopted children the same as biological children, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Also, employer-sponsored group plans usually cover HIV. In addition, most states offer assistance for the medical care of HIV-positive adults and children.
6. The laws have recently changed to make it easier to get HIV-positive children in the country
It used to be the case that adoptions of HIV-positive kids were complicated by the need to obtain a I-601 waiver, but a recent change in the laws took HIV off the list of the Centers for Disease Control’s List of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance. This means that parents adopting HIV-positive children can expect similar timeframes for the visa process as there would be with any other adoption.
7. You can see pictures of HIV-positive children currently in need of homes
One thing that made me really begin to pay attention to this issue was seeing pictures of kids with HIV who are currently in need of homes, like the ones here at Project Hopeful. To look into the eyes of a little human being, rather than simply reading about statistics and data, made me understand why an increasing number of people are opening their hearts and homes to this challenging but deeply rewarding call.
8. Regular people (not just saints) adopt HIV-positive kids
One thing I’ve noticed about all these families is how normal they are. As you can see from the list of testimonials here, many of the parents of infected children had never considered such a thing before, and had plenty of fears and hesitations. My friend once told me of her decision to go this route: “I’ve learned that while perfect faithfulness should be what we all aspire to, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other faithfulness is often the best I can give, and thankfully, it’s often enough. You do not need to be extraordinary; you just need to keep going. As I daily remind myself, I may not know where the path I walk is headed, I may be fearful along the way, but I know Who walks beside me. And all roads walked in faithfulness lead to Him.”
Obviously, adopting a child with any kind of significant medical needs is a special call, and not something that every family is meant to do. But I’m glad to see the word getting out about the possibility of HIV-positive adoption, so that nobody overlooks this choice for expanding their family out of a simple lack of information.
I just wanted to share this link with you which outlines the life so far of Ben Banks – the Ambassador for the Elizabeth Glasser Ped. AIDS Foundation. Ben was infected with HIV at the age of 2 during a blood transfusion, and speaks as various HIV/AIDS related events raising awareness and inspiring those he touches!
First off, I wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time to email me to let em know they have found the Sinethemba website to be helpful – it is so nice to hear! And although not all families who look into adopting a child with HIV ultimately decide that it is a good option for their family, many learn a great deal about HIV and end up doing amazing things with this knowledge in other ways.
On that note…I am reaching out to all of you to see what you might be able to offer new families in terms of support and information. This is not just for families who are parenting children livingw ith HIV, but really applies to anyone who has the interest and the time (even if it’s only a little time!) to help out.
1) The biggest concern most families have is what the cost of ARV’s might be for their child, and what costs are out-of-pocket compared to what is often covered by private benefits. Of course, not only will these costs vary with every child, they wil also vary according to what province you live in. If any of you are open to sharing any information you have or that you have gathered regarding your provincial health coverage as well as average costs and/or back-up plans for drug costs (such as Ontario’s Trillium Foundation), it would be greatly appreciated! Please email me at: email@example.com. I will create a section on the blog for this information.
2) If there are any families out there parentinga child living with HIV (adopted or not!) and you would be open to “mentoring” a family who is just starting out an their adoption journey, please send me an email to let me know how you would be able to provide support (email, phone calls, in-person meetings) and when you may be able to start this. This will be done in a way that ensures confidentiality depending on how you have chosen to handle the issue of disclosure and the comfort level you and your family has on sharing information.
3) Fundraising – Many families have asked me when Sinethemba will be able to offer adoption grants to families adopting a child living with HIV. This is a very good question! In order to make this part of Sinethemba a reality, I am going to need to need some support from the wider community. If you think you would be able to fundraise, assist in creating grant applications, etc, please let me know. This is a huge task and so the more help we have, the faster we can get that portion of the foundation up and off the ground! I am very open to hearing ideas, thoughts, plans as to how we may be able to move the grants project forward!
Please note: All of the funds collected will go through Emmanuel’s Wish Foundation (http://www.emmanuelswish.org/Donate.html) and donors who commit over $20 will be mailed a tax receipt. Please be sure to choose “Sinethemba” from the drop down list on the website if you’d like to donate.
4) Lastly, I would love to create a page where families can share their personal stories of adopting, and then parenting, a child living with HIV in Canada. All personal information can be changed to ensure confidentiality. This page will be the true inspiration to those who are still researching this possibility – as they see “real families’ and “real issues” that have all been a part of the experience. I want you to share the good, the bad and the ugly here!!! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to submit your story.
Thanks again to all who have taken to time to contact me – I hope to hear from more of you soon!
Convicted of murder for spreading HIV, man faces dangerous offender hearing
By Linda Nguyen, Postmedia NewsMay 9, 2011
Johnson Aziga, convicted of first-degree murder for infecting sexual partners with HIV, may be declared a dangerous offender.
The hearing in Hamilton, Ont., is expected to last up to three weeks and hear from numerous witnesses for both the Crown and defence who will speak to the options available for sentencing and parole for the 54-year-old.
Aziga was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault by a jury in 2009, following 2 1/2 days of deliberation.
During the trial, the jury heard that two women, identified only as H.C. and S.B., were lethally infected with HIV by Aziga, who never told them about his medical status.
As a result, the two women were unable to seek effective treatment when they became ill, which led to AIDS-related cancers and their deaths. Another five of Aziga’s sexual partners tested positive for HIV, while four other women tested negative.
Prosecutors told the jury that Aziga “outright lied” about his HIV-status and, in some cases, convinced his sex partners that condoms were not necessary.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can result in AIDS, a frequently fatal disease that attacks the immune system and can spread through the exchange of blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
Aziga, a former research analyst with Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, has been in prison since his arrest in August 2003. He still faces a sentencing hearing for his conviction, which will follow the dangerous offender hearing.
His Toronto-based lawyer, Davies Bagambiire, said this process has been lengthy because both sides have had to go through volumes of documents and line up experts to testify.
“This has been a long and difficult case,” he said Monday. “It’s unprecedented.”
A dangerous offender designation allows the court to impose an indeterminate sentence: a dangerous offender can be held in custody until he is no longer considered to be a threat to the public. A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Bagambiire said one of his arguments will be whether institutionalization is the best method to deal with someone like Aziga, who has been dealing with HIV since he was diagnosed in 1996.
He added that his client, a native of Uganda, continues to suffer in prison from the stigma associated with the disease.
“The stigma continues. It has nothing to do with him, it has to do with the nature of society,” said Bagambiire. “In prison, the population obviously has him stigmatized as someone with HIV. They think they’re being careful because they don’t want to be infected by him. That hasn’t stopped and that has nothing to do with him, it’s the nature of prison life.”
Some legal experts have criticized Canada over the case, suggesting it has set a dangerous precedent by criminalizing HIV patients.
According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, criminal charges have been laid against people living with HIV in more than 120 cases across the country. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that someone who did not disclose their HIV-status could be found guilty of aggravated assault, but the escalation to the more serious charge of murder is worrisome, said the advocacy group.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Johnson Aziga, convicted of first-degree murder for infecting sexual partners with HIV, may be declared a dangerous offender.Photograph by: Handout, CNS