Alex Blaze

Another nonsensical HIV nondisclosure prosecution

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 04, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Canada, HIV/AIDS, homophobic behavior, nondisclosure, police, police state, sexphobia

Another HIV nondisclosure prosecution from Canada:

prison locked up.gifSteve Biron, 32, faces charges of aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault against one alleged victim, but the Crown could lay more charges in a case that has Quebec City's gay community on edge.[...]

Biron is alleged to have perused gay dating sites under the pseudonym bbackbottom31, meeting men and then having unprotected sex with them in his apartment. He was arrested after the first alleged victim found out about Biron's HIV status after bumping into him at a local hospital.

The article doesn't say whether any of the people who had sex with Biron seroconverted because they had sex with him, although that's not important to these prosecutions. I'm trying to think of a parallel from the realm of traditional assault, where someone could punch someone else in the face and the other person only consents to and enjoys it, but that simply makes no sense.

The strange thing, though, is how the people who had sex with Biron are referred to as "victims," when they're all people who sought out someone who goes by "bbackbottom31" on the internet for sex and consensually barebacked with him. Are they surprised that he's HIV-positive? If they are, doesn't that say more about HIV education in Quebec than it does about any of the people involved?

And if they did seroconvert recently, how do they know it was Biron's fault, what with them all being comfortable with having sex with barebackers online?

The rule for hook-ups should be to assume that the other person is poz and take the necessary precautions. And the guy who's online and only barebacks with people is probably the last person to bareback with. If Biron was looking to bareback with people he didn't know, it doesn't matter whether he knew his serostatus or not. His level of risk was very high anyway.

That information (and probably more) about his lifestyle was available to everyone he had sex with, so it's hard to imagine how anyone could be surprised here. Moreover, are these guys who seek out other men who bareback for sex getting tested? They must top without condoms at least every now and then, so who knows how many people they've put at risk. Do they know their status? Will they now stop fucking men bareback, or will they just avoid getting tested?

Which is always the fundamental problem with these prosecutions: does the fact that the "assailant" has been tested for HIV change the nature of act for the worse? According to the way the law is being applied, it sure seems like it. They're prosecuting men who've tested positive for having sex without disclosing, while ignoring the multitudes of other risks associated with sex, including all the sources of risk from seeking someone to have sex with and what these people specifically did, putting the spotlight on three things: getting tested, having any form of sex, and not disclosing. Disclosing's hard and people aren't going to stop having sex (although they could be encouraged to reduce risk, but these prosecutions are rarely that nuanced), so it's the first one that people will use to get around these laws.

Since we don't know the serostatus of the "victims" here, it's entirely possible that one of them was HIV-positive and didn't disclose that fact to Biron. If he did it because he didn't know his status, then the prosecution is going the way it is specifically because of testing. If someone else who had sex with Biron did know he was poz, then the government decides whom to prosecute based on who tells on the other first?

Considering there's strong evidence that knowing one's status makes one less likely to have unprotected sex and no evidence that HIV-nondisclosure laws do anything to stymie the spread of HIV, it's counterproductive to put testing at the center of prosecutions.

Anyway, the last thing the government should be promoting is the "If he had HIV, he'd tell me" mentality that is far too prevalent and only reified through publicized prosecutions that turn the HIV epidemic into the story of a few bad apples going around spreading it and if they could just be arrested....

It takes two people to spread the virus and an entire population to turn it into an epidemic. The problem isn't a few bad apples.

One more thing: does the government think that putting someone who goes by "bbackbottom31" in prison is going to reduce violence, sexual violence, and the amount of sex Biron is having?


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Regan DuCasse | December 4, 2010 3:33 PM

I'm glad you brought this up, and perhaps his defense lawyer can make a case that his potential partners found him in an online forum for unprotected sex, were willing to have unprotected sex with a stranger, and that THEIR status could be questioned and whether or not THEY were putting others at risk as well.

And, what about hetero men and women who behave this same way?
Heteros are not immune to anonymous, non monogamous sex and IT'S risks of even more because of the spectre of pregnancy and involving a baby either being sick, or aborted for the same reasons.

There have been some cases of prosecution women with HIV who knowingly had unprotected sex with men and were jailed, but her 'victims' too were willing to bareback.
And several athletes who infected several girls were jailed for the same.

Here in CA, in Burbank a woman notorious as a believer that HIV didn't cause AIDS, had HIV and was breast feeding her son until he was THREE YEARS old and refused to have him tested.
She subsequently had a baby girl, that died at 18 mos old from AIDS related pneumonia, and that woman died several years ago from AIDS complications.
She did all this, without any prosecution for child endangerment as she was breast feeding (a means of transmission) and so on.

So, we still have a long way to go when it comes to discerning what consent to have unprotected sex really means and who is responsible if one or both of the partners may be infected.

In a perfect world, yes, honest full and accurate disclosure of one's HIV status occurs before each and every sexual encounter...well, enough about that delusional fantasy...

Honestly, whomever is hooking up randomly online w/"BBbottom whatever" and then is surprised that that person is HIV+ is showing not only a severe lack of intelligence and judgement, but an almost pathological resistance to accepting responsibility for one's own choices and the consequences thereof.

I'd donate money to start a countersuit against the 'aggrieved victim' on the grounds of being too stupid and irresponsible to be amongst the general population.

If you're HIV negative and wish to stay that way, play safe and/or deal with the consequences of your choices. Also, many 'negs' AREN'T, and are lying to you via their own denial and/or refusal to be tested regularly.

Sorry, but ultimately, your own health is YOUR responsibilty. If any of these man seroconverted, I suggest they look in the mirror for the cause of their predicament.

"the people who had sex with Biron are referred to as "victims," when they're all people who sought out someone who goes by "bbackbottom31" on the internet for sex and consensually barebacked with him."

The news story doesn't provide much information, but seeing as one of the charges is aggravated sexual assault, I wouldn't say that it was all consensual sex. And for any cases in which it was not consensual, I don't think the term "victim" is inappropriate.

As far as any consensual sex was going on though, I think what you're saying about non-disclosure laws makes a lot of sense.

Absolutely. If we're talking about nonconsensual sex, that changes the entire matter.

But sexual assault is usually the charge in Canada for nondisclosure. As in, someone can't really consent unless they know the other person's serostatus.

Mr. Biron is innocent.

Since Oct 2009, OMSJ has saved numerous criminal HIV defendants from decades in prison.

There's a big difference between a prosecutor who introduces a test result and a prosecutor and clinicians who are forced to prove HIV infection. Since all HIV test manufacturers admit that HIV tests don't detect HIV, only a fool would admit guilt.

In the United States, it's very easy for OMSJ to locate defense attorneys to provide our assistance. In Canada, it's virtually impossible to secure that kind of information by phone. If someone knows Mr. Biron or his attorney, have them contact OMSJ or Google the "HIV Innocence Project."

Mr. Biron is innocent - OMSJ will prove it.

Alex and all -- Tonight I stayed up until 2 AM to watch "In The Life" on my local PBS station ... and surprise! ... they had a segment on exactly this subject. Their approach to coverage was very good, and some they interviewed made points that did change my viewpoints on this matter.

Sean Strub of the Positive Justice Project pointed out (I paraphrase), "These [HIV disclosure] laws send exactly the opposite message that we try to put out when educating about safe sex. They undermine the notion that each person can be responsible for protecting themselves."

Secondly, I was surprised and encouraged to learn that there are several well-skilled groups working to defend the individuals charged under these laws, as well as working to get the worst of these laws improved. (Orgs named on-screen thru-out, see video link below.)

Thirdly, I did not know that these laws are "inspired" by an aspect of the original Ryan White Care Act, that requires states to pass laws dealing with "intentional HIV transmission" -- but in many states, the law that got actually put on the books does not address "intentional HIV transmission" but instead addresses HIV disclosure, usually in ways that put both stigma and legal onus on the individual who is HIV-positive.

The entire December 2010 installment can be watched online by going to [_www.itlmedia.org_] and clicking on the "Watch Now" button.

This video segment is a "Must Watch" item for anyone concerned about this issue.

Journalistic investigation in the Biron case with scnadalous discoveries http://gayglobe.us/blog/?p=2554

From english Canada
http://gayglobe.us/blog/?p=3082