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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Malta: British man accused of rape, HIV transmission

A 41 year-old HIV-positive British man has been charged with rape and HIV transmission in Malta, and yet the details of the case do not add up at all.

According to the Times of Malta the "incident allegedly happened early on Sunday morning" and yet

It had since been confirmed, [Police Inspector Louise Calleja] said, that the victim was now carrying HIV.

It is impossible to detect HIV transmission so quickly, and if the woman is, indeed HIV-positive, then the accused man could not possibly have infected the woman.

It is also unclear whether the sex was, in fact, non-consensual.

Police Inspector Louise Calleja told the court that although the two had been drunk at the time, the incident could not be described as consensual, more so as the victim knew that the man was an HIV carrier.

The Malta Independent provides a little more detail.

Calleja told the court...that the accused and the alleged victim, also British, were drunk at the time of the incident, which happened in the small hours of Sunday morning. The victim and her boyfriend (another man) are said to have invited the accused and his girlfriend to their Gharghur home for drinks which is when the alleged assault took place.

The man has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody. Hopefully, more details will emerge that explains how the woman could have tested HIV-positive within 48 hours of the alleged sexual transmisison, and whether the sex was actually forced.

Malta has previously prosecuted one other person for criminal HIV transmission.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It will also be interesting to find out if she was offered PEP in this case and the result of such a treatment....

FM

Edwin J Bernard said...

I doubt very much whether PEP was offered if she already tested HIV-positive.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking that perhaps a RNA PCR test was used to determine the HIV+ result, and wonder due to the efficacy of such testing and the assertion that the person was very recently infected how PEP might have prevented a sero-conversion. Frankly I'm not fully knowledgeable on the science but as you say the HIV+ result doesn't quite jive with the alleged time table of events.

Regina said...

I will go on to agree with the majority here. Unless the woman was already HIV positive it doesn't seem possible that she would have tested positive so soon after the exposure. Maybe we just dont have all of the facts. Maybe this was an ongoing relationship, consentual, and not rape.

gfspiteri said...

I am a public health doctor in Malta and when I saw this report I thought it was strange so contacted the police. I have been told she has not yet tested HIV positive, this was misreported by the media. The police brought the charge of HIV transmission at this point due to a legal technical matter. They will drop it if she stays negative.

gfspiteri said...

actually even the first conviction (mentioned in the article) in Malta was overturned on appeal as it was not clear whether the HIV transmission happened before or after the introduction of the law in Malta. The person was still imprisoned for having sex with an underage person (report in Maltese is at http://www.l-orizzont.com/news2.asp?artid=38696)

Edwin J Bernard said...

Thank you, gfspiteri - very helpful. Malta's HIV-specific law only prosecutes HIV transmission. This makes FM's comment about PEP much more pertinent.

gfspiteri said...

Yes I agree, I will try to check if she received PEP (it is also strange in a way as the doctors are trying to prevent transmission and at the same time if they succeed they prevent the prosecution).
I came across this site by chance, but I am glad I found it. I am completely against the law as it is in Malta (it is also applicable to Hepatitis B and C and TB(!))
The law also has two levels: you can either be convicted of knowingly transmitting or else of transmitting through carelessness with different prison terms foreseen: http://docs.justice.gov.mt/lom/legislation/english/leg/vol_1/chapt9.pdf (article 244A)
and http://www.doi.gov.mt/en/legalnotices/2005/05/LN137.pdf (scroll to the bottom for the english version)

Edwin J Bernard said...

Thanks for posting again, Dr Spiteri. Very helpful to know what's going on here. Do you know whether there have been any prosecutions for hep B, C or TB?

gfspiteri said...

As far as I know there have been none for HBV, HCV and TB
GS

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