Groundbreaking Canadian case sets a complicated precedent for AIDS-based murder convictions

01.07.2011 § Leave a comment

Johnson Aziga is the first person in Canada to be convicted of murder via HIV transmission after having infected several women with with the virus through unprotected sex, two of which have since died from AIDS-related cancers. Aziga argues that he was convicted by a racist jury (they were all white, as were a number of his victims), and that there is insufficient evidence to prove that he was the source of the infection in his victims. However, the highly-educated former public servant also admitted to  knowingly engaging in unprotected sex with 11 different women in the 8 years since his diagnosis and to having witheld his condition when asked directly by some of the women. From an article in the Vancouver Sun:

He has given a number of reasons for why he didn’t tell the women about his HIV status, including that he was afraid of losing companionship, he was not counselled properly on how to do so by public health officials and that his ex-wife made him a “monster” and “morally dead.” Aziga also blames his culture for not making it easy to divulge personal information.

While the racist stereotyping around HIV is completely fucked up, and the limits of HIV counseling and education in North America are real, Aziga’s behavior during the trial is still extremely disturbing and overrules these excuses as in any way justifying his actions:

 During the cross-examination, she asked him if he was ready to let the victims move on by resigning to serve his life sentence for the murders or if he was still preparing to appeal the convictions.

“Why should I?” retorted Aziga. “I cannot definitely tell you that I’m abandoning my appeal.”

On Wednesday, Aziga personally apologized to the women for the first time in a two-page statement he read aloud in court. Most of the statement was about his own suffering.

On Thursday, he admitted that he’d be willing to engage in unprotected sex if he is released from prison if the woman told him she was a “risk taker.”

Since his conviction, debate has continued over whether to label Aziga as a ‘dangerous offender,’ which would result in his being ineligible for parole. In addition to the above testimony, the prosecution is citing Aziga’s “abnormally high libido” in arguing the likelihood of recidivism, further underscoring the  racist and patriarchal tenor of the whole affair.

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