Sydney man Martin Jaksic has been sentenced to a maximum term of four and a half years in prison for transmitting HIV to his ex-partner.
He pleaded guilty to charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm over six years ago, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
He was arrested at Sydney airport in 2016, four years after police began searching for him.
“The offender’s conduct was a gross betrayal of trust and a contemptible and callous disregard for the victim’s life,” Judge Peter Zahra said in handing down Jaksic’s sentence.
Zahra said Jaksic’s offence was “of a most serious kind”, and that he appeared to indifferent to what had happened.
Jaksic was reportedly diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2010, and the judge said he had been informed about the need to practice safe sex in order to not transmit HIV to his sexual partners, and that Australian law mandates that disclosure of your status.
Zahra said Jaksic has even considered taking legal action against the man who had passed HIV onto him, and that a doctor had informed Jaksic that the man may have committed a crime if he had been aware of his status.
“At all times [he] would have been aware of the grave risk of the victim suffering serious illness which had the potential to be life-threatening,” Zahra said.
In a letter to the court, Jaksic said that he was in denial over his diagnosis and that his actions were “cowardly and unthinkable”.
Co-founder of HIV advocacy group The Institute of Many Nic Holas tweeted his dismay at the sentence.
“NSW has a public health process for dealing with instances of alleged reckless HIV transmission,” Holas said.
“We can keep people out of courts and prison, and provide something closer to restorative justice for the wronged party. HIV criminalization is blunt, ineffective tool.”
Experts have warned that criminalising HIV is ineffective in actually reducing transmission rates because it prioritises punishment over prevention.
A group of HIV science leaders published a consensus statement at July’s World AIDS Conference, stating that “criminalization of HIV transmission creates an unjust public health environment where individuals living with HIV may be fearful about disclosing their status, which may delay their own engagement in care.”
“In a world where highly effective tools exist to enhance the lives of people living with HIV and to curtail HIV transmission through the ongoing use of effective antiretroviral medication, any disincentive to engage in care is undesirable from a public health and human rights standpoint.
“Specific laws focusing on HIV criminalization, and misuse of other laws despite the evidence against the likelihood of HIV transmission, reflect the perpetuation of ignorance, irrational fear and stigmatization, or a punitive intent directed towards people living with HIV.”
“Simply put, HIV criminalisation laws are ineffective, unwarranted and discriminatory,” the consensus statement’s co-author and IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said.
“In many cases, these misconceived laws exacerbate the spread of HIV by driving people living with and at risk of infection into hiding and away from treatment services.”
It’s one of the most high profile cases of the prosecution of HIV in recent years.
Earlier this year a West Australian man was charged with two counts of aggravated grievous bodily harm over HIV transmissions.
And in February, CJ Palmer was sentenced to a six year term in a men’s prison, despite being a woman, for transmitting HIV.