Man with HIV jailed 2 years for not telling male sex partner of condition

Singapore’s State Courts. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

A man who failed to inform his sex partner that he was infected with HIV before having sex with him on several occasions was sentenced to two years’ jail on Wednesday (1 August).

The 29-year-old Singaporean, who cannot be named to protect the victim’s identity, was sentenced on one count of breaching the Infectious Diseases Act. He was found guilty on 6 November last year after a trial.

Under the Act, a person infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) shall not engage in sexual activity with another person unless he or she has informed the partner of the risk and the partner has accepted the risk.

According to court documents, after testing positive for HIV, the man was informed by a public health officer from the National Public Health Unit that he should inform his sex partners of his status if he were to engage in sexual activities.

The man later underwent tests and treatment to suppress the HIV virus. The virus level in his body fell significantly after a number of tests.

After the man got to know the victim online, they met to have sex between five and six occasions from 2012 to 2013 at the man’s home. The man used condoms during the first few sexual encounters but did not do so thereafter.

According to the prosecution, the man did not inform the victim of the risk of contracting HIV infection and did not obtain the victim’s consent to accept the risk before engaging in any sexual activity. The victim only discovered the accused’s HIV positive status in 2015 after being informed by an investigating officer.

The victim later testified in court that he would not have engaged in sex with the man if he knew about the infection. It is unclear if the victim was infected by the man.

During the trial, the man testified that he was infected with HIV while he was working in a camp in Thailand. According to the man, he was the only person on duty when a villager came in seeking help for an allergic reaction.

As the man was flustered, he pricked himself on the finger with a contaminated tool while assisting the patient, said the man, who was emotional while recounting the incident.

Two to three weeks after the incident, the man noticed swollen lymph nodes on his “back and body”. He later went for several consultations at a local hospital before he was diagnosed as HIV positive. He returned to Singapore and did a test at the Communicable Diseases Centre where his condition was confirmed.

“After the diagnosis, I told myself I have to be responsible and ensure nothing happened to anyone else,” said the man. He added that he would inform his partners of his HIV status, including the victim, ahead of any sexual activity and ask for theirs in return.

How HIV is transmitted

HIV is transmitted through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids. The infection is often transmitted through sexual activity or by using contaminated needles during activities such as drug consumption and tattooing.

HIV infection weakens the body’s immune system by destroying white blood cells that protect the body against attacks by bacteria, viruses and other harmful pathogens. 

Without treatment, HIV infection worsens over time and could eventually reach the most severe stage, which is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), when the body is unable to fight off other infections due to the severely damaged immune system.

The prosecution referred to a sentencing framework which called for a jail term of between two years and six years for cases where there were a high risk of HIV transmission, which was applicable to the current case as the two men had not been consistent in using condoms. It called for a jail term of 24 months to be imposed on the man.

Under the same framework, a jail term of six to ten years was recommended for an offender who had infected another person with HIV.

The man’s lawyer, Remy Choo Zheng Xi, said that his client intends to appeal the conviction.

For his offence, the man could have been jailed up to 10 years and/or fined up to $50,000.