German Pop Star Publicly Arrested for HIV Tranmission


I was diagnosed HIV
positive in 1991. I am a member and
staff member of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), which is the only
international network run for and by HIV positive women. ICW promotes the voices of and advocates for
changes in policies that improve the lives of all HIV positive women.  We believe that all laws that uphold the
criminalization of HIV transmission should be abolished.  Criminalization is counterproductive to goals
related to rights-based approaches to public health, reinforces stigma toward
persons who are often already marginalized and fosters feelings of chaos and fear around HIV and sex.

On April 11th, Nadja Benaissa, a member of
the highly successful German pop band No Angels, was
arrested
in Frankfurt for alleged criminal HIV exposure and
transmission. She was placed on remand on the basis "that the strong suspicion
of a crime and the risk she would reoffend were too great to ignore." She was
released from prison 11 days after her detention.

HIV is a medical condition which promotes
highly emotive responses from many quarters, many of which are based on lack of
information and resultant fear, rather than on scientific fact. Many facts in the
arrest and prosecution of Nadja Benaissa demonstrate the violation of rights
faced by HIV positive individuals when HIV transmission and exposure is
criminalized. 

Benaissa
was very publicly arrested before she went on stage at her concert in Frankfurt
and her HIV status revealed by the public prosecutor’s office.  This public arrest and disclosure of her
status is a violation of her rights to confidentiality and privacy.  Further, this treatment increases stigma and
discrimination against positive women by making people believe HIV positive
women are all malicious criminals.

Allegedly,
Benaissa did not inform her partners of her HIV serostatus.  As an HIV positive woman I believe that it is
each person’s responsibility to ensure that they are engaging in healthy and
safe sexual behavior.  Criminalization
of HIV transmission and exposure places blame on one sexual partner rather than
encouraging equal responsibility in safe sex – exposing oneself to HIV is part of
the risk of having sex.  It is unfair to
place all blame on the person with HIV.

While in prison, Benaissa was kept from her daughter.  Criminalizing HIV positive women specifically
means that the primary caretakers of their families and children are being put
into jail.

The case of Benaissa represents some of the worst aspects of
criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure: increased stigma, worsening
discrimination, actively violating confidentiality, creating hysteria about HIV
positive women as HIV vectors, and removal of a caretaker from her home and
child. 

As an HIV positive woman I am outraged that anyone be put through this
ordeal and that judicial systems are prepared to enact laws that
violate our rights in this way and in circumstances that are tainted by stigma
and discrimination.  ICW is actively working to end the criminalization of  people living with HIV by advocating
directly at the national and international level, supporting individuals who
have been arrested through participation in broad based advocacy, and providing a deeper understanding of how criminalization
laws will directly impact the lives of HIV positive women.  

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  • progo35

    Fiona,

    I’m sorry, but I think your argument is ludacris, tantamount to arguing that Madoff shouldn’t be prosecuted for his ponzy scheme because his investors were equally responsible for their investment. If you are HIV infected, than YOU have a responsibility to inform the person who you have sex with. They do not deserve to be exposed to HIV because they forgot to ask if you have HIV.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • http://www.fitoldermen.com invalid-0

    Let’s assume Benaissa was getting a successful treatment and here viral count was below detection. Doesn’t this make a difference? Because this would eventually mean that SHE did not infect her partner – he got it somewhere else. So I think the real scandal is that this possibility has not been taken into consideration – no she was put in jail instead!

    Read this – here is a citation:

    Indeed, some doctors believe that in certain circumstances people taking HIV treatment pose a zero risk of infection to their sex partners.

    via news.bbc.co.uk

    fitOlderMen

  • http://www.fitoldermen.com invalid-0

    Let’s assume Benaissa was getting a successful treatment and here viral count was below detection. Doesn’t this make a difference? Because this would eventually mean that SHE did not infect her partner – he got it somewhere else. So I think the real scandal is that this possibility has not been taken into consideration – no she was put in jail instead!

    Read this – here is a citation:

    Indeed, some doctors believe that in certain circumstances people taking HIV treatment pose a zero risk of infection to their sex partners.

    via news.bbc.co.uk

    fitOlderMen

  • progo35

    But, we don’t know what the circumstances were, so until I hear from the medical community that she couldn’t have given her partner HIV, I’m going with my position.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • http://momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com invalid-0

    Ludacris is a rapper, my friend.

    Most people with HIV (and other STDs) do not know their status. Anyone who has sex with anyone without a condom and without getting STD testing is opening themselves up to infection. It is definitely wrong to hide knowledge of an STD from a sexual partner, but it is hardly criminal.

    Int he vast majority of the time, people don’t know they are being exposed. This situation was only different because there may have been a lack of notification. Unless she blatantly lied, the partner should have assumed she could be positive for any number of STDs. Should we start arresting people who have ever had a possible exposure (to HIV, hep B or C, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, etc.) and don’t get tested and may pass it on?

  • progo35

    MomTFH-that’s a different situation because the woman in this article clearly KNEW that she had HIV and didn’t tell her partner. If someone didn’t know, than that’s a different story.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Say for instance I knew I had smallpox or swine flu. Is it your responsibility to educate yourself on the medical status of every patron of a restraunt or store you may visit or is it mine to avoid you until I get treatment and recover? I would argue that the ill person is the only one who knows he/she is ill and must take on the responsibility. Likewise an HIV poistive person must be willing to disclose his or her status to any sex partners. That’s not unreasonable at all.

    • http://art-architech.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      The donor has the right to anonymity of medical data; free analyses of blood (the general analysis, definition of group of blood and a Rhesus factor, analyses on a HIV and hepatitises In and) and survey of the qualified doctors on blood transfusion Stations, and also paid rest – 2 compensatory holidays (in day of a summer residence of blood and any other day for choice the Donor) and the privileges provided for persons, awarded by the Sign “Honourable Donor”.

  • think4urself

    I have to agree with Progo and Cmarie here. The woman knew she was infected, knew she could possibly pass that infection on to her sexual partner and didn’t warn them and in doing so could have basically given them a death sentence. And yes, I know that treatment can prolong life and all that but IF that person hadn’t had sex with her and was never exposed again in their life to HIV, their life expectancy would be a lot higher. No if, ands, or buts, HIV and AIDS shortens a person’s life expectancy, period. We all know that. I do, however think it was wrong that she was treated the way she was during and following her arrest. A private medical issue such as this should have been handled much more carefully and NOT done in a public place that ended up with her private medical information spread over the world. While she has a responsibilty to inform her partner, the world at large need not know her HIV status. ~Never let others do your thinking for you~