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The First Case of HIV Murder in Canada

While modern society is constantly evolving more and more cases and laws become unique and new. Sometimes such cases are great victories in human rights related cases, but sometimes they don't bring much good thoughts. This article will be devoted to a new type of murder in Canada HIV murder.

Johnson Aziga a Ugandan-born Canadian man from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, is the first person that was recently charged and convicted of first-degree murder in Canada for spreading HIV. Aziga was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, but he continued to have unprotected sex and didn't inform his partners that he was HIV-positive. He had sexual relations with thirteen women seven of whom later tested positive for HIV. Two of these women died of AIDS complications in December 2003 and May 2004. Aziga was arrested in August 2003 and in November 2005 the judge ruled out that there is sufficient evidence for Aziga to stand trial. The trial was moved several times and begun only in October 2008. During the trial Aziga's former girlfriends claimed that he lied about his HIV status and continued having unprotected sex. It was earlier ruled out that persons who are not informed that a sexual partner is HIV-positive cannot truly give consent to sex, the courts verdict was based on this decision and that's why, the death of the two women is automatically considered to be murder instead of a lesser charge such as manslaughter. Which resulted in greater punishment.

The HIV community criticized this decision and it was described as "not particularly helpful" by Richard Elliott, deputy director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. He also argued that it may lead to a "dominant impression out there of people living with HIV as potential criminals, which is not an accurate or fair representation." Still in most similar cases in Canada and other countries most of the defendants infected their partners intentionally as a menace to society.

While the case of Johnson Aziga is the first HIV murder case, there are a number of related cases in Canada that had lesser punishments. Charles Ssenyonga, a Ugandan immigrant living in London, Ontario was the first person that was charged with failing to disclose his HIV status to a sexual partner, however he died before a verdict was rendered in his case. There were also few similar cases from 1992 to 2007 but they were classified mostly as disclosure or sexual assault and the maximal punishment was 11 years in prison. The cornerstone case in the development of laws related to criminal transmission of HIV was the R. v. Cuerrier in 1998. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that people who knowingly exposed others to HIV through unprotected sex could be charged with a crime on the grounds that failure to disclose one's HIV status to a sex partner constitutes fraud. The problem has also another racial side, many of the HIV transmission cases involved black men. Even a scholarly paper on the Ssenyonga case called African Immigrant Damnation Syndrome was published in 2005.

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