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Thursday 09 April 2009



"Two of my friends got HIV – from the same guy"

Posted in: Family Matters
By GayNZ.com - 26th November 2008

Jacquie Grant affectionately known as the "tranny granny", Jacquie's had a colourful life which has seen her go from being harassed by police and arrested on the streets of King's Cross in Sydney in the late 1950s, to a happier life in New Zealand, where she has fostered more than 60 children, and now has numerous grandchildren. Jacquie lives in Hokitika.

Bill Logan is a counsellor, celebrant, gay activist and revolutionist in his fifties, Bill's been on the Gay Helpline in Wellington since 1982, was a co-founder of the NZ AIDS Foundation, and played a significant role in the struggle for homosexual law reform.

Tom Hamilton is Rainbow Youth's Executive Director, and also has several years experience working within LGBT communities in Australia and the USA. Tom also has extensive knowledge about community law, support work and counselling.

Previous advisors include secondary school teacher Carol Bartlett, gay activist Jim Peron,"Out & Proud" ambassador AJ Marsh, ex Youth Coordinator for Rainbow Youth Rob Marshall and GayNZ.com editor Jay Bennie.



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Riane is left angry and confused after close friends told him they both got HIV from a man who's still out there picking up guys. But is there anything he can do?

Dear GayNZ.com,

men_2.jpg
I am worried about my friends and others.
Two of my close friends were recently diagnosed HIV-positive, and I know they both got it from a guy who is still out there, picking up guys to have sex with.
I'm worried about his behaviour but I don't know if there is anything real I can do.
Is it appropriate to inform the police about him? I feel compelled to do something.
My friends are dealing very well and bravely with their situation but I am angry and confused.
Perhaps you have some words of advice?
Thanks,

Riane.

Advice from HIV researcher Michael Stevens:

Well this is a very difficult situation for you, and a terrible one for your friends to find themselves in. I completely understand why you want to take action on your friends' behalf, and also for anyone else who might be sleeping with this guy.

I see two core issues here. One is legal, and one is emotional.

On the legal side there is no doubt he has broken the law in his actions, if it can be determined that he is the person who infected them. This is possible to do. Whether they want to take this action when dealing with the crisis of a new positive diagnosis is another matter. Even when the Police are supportive, getting involved in such a court case will be draining for them.

On the emotional level, you want to do something to make things better for your friends, to protect them after the fact and to protect others. I guess you're angry and want to do something with that anger. I understand that impulse and think it's great that you care so much and your friends have you there for them.

I'm not sure how well the Police will take to someone who hasn't been infected making a complaint, perhaps others can advise you better than me on that issue. Perhaps you could enquire first?

The sad fact is that there are men out there who don't care about others' health and well-being, and we have to protect ourselves.

I'm very sorry your mates are going through this, but glad they have you there beside them.

Advice from Bill Logan:

Well, it's no wonder you are angry and confused. Getting HIV is a terrible thing to happen, and if it came from someone who knew they had it, but did not use a condom, then that is very nasty.

The law is a clumsy way of dealing with these things, and proof can be very difficult. It would be good if you talked to a counselor at the AIDS Foundation, so they could follow up with your friends if they wanted that, and with the guy who seems to be the origin of the problem.

The lesson, though, is that you can never be sure that your partner doesn't carry HIV, so you always have to use a condom. Indeed if you have anal sex without condoms, you will almost certainly get HIV eventually.

And advice from Jacquie Grant:

First let me say my heart goes out to your friends and the situation they find themselves in, I don't think there are any straight answers to your question 'is it appropriate to inform the police'. I'm going to stick my neck out and say probably yes, however I think as there are other people that you know who were involved you should discuss what you are thinking of doing with them first to see if you can get some consensus on what is the right action to take.

If you had direct evidence that this individual was deliberately setting out to infect other men, then yes I think you should inform the authorities immediately.

I'm not sure on the legal side of disclosure etc but would assume intent would need to be proved, which may be difficult.

One only has to look at NZ Dating closely to see that there are men who have sex with men advertising for unprotected sex, I know of one such man who lives 40km from my home I have read his profile and know he has been contacted and told to get his act together and get tested.

Now after having said all this… how fucking stupid were your friends? What justification could they have for having unprotected sex with anyone, especially a casual pick up, surely in this case they are equally to blame as the guy they bonked.

If you decided you did not want to involve the authorities then a direct threat to the person concerned may have some effect or I wonder if there are counselors at Body Positive or the NZAF who could do a little leg work and at least make contact with this guy and try to do some follow-up work.

I read recently on GayNZ.com where a contributor stated something like "If you take your meds and do what your doctor says you will chug along quite nicely". I think that type of message is what gives a lot of men confidence that it is no big deal these days if you do contact the virus. We should all know that is not correct for everyone with HIV - especially for long term HIV positive people. I know only to well having seen what it has done to so many of my friends over the years. Only today when I got off the plane I was greeted by the news one of my good friends is in hospital in ChCh for the fourth or fifth time in six weeks, he looks like a bag of old bones, is only 40 years old, has the worst case of shits imaginable and has had for weeks, continually being rehydrated, vomiting, colonoscopy today, more tests tomorrow, and yes he has given me permission to cite his case, he has even said "they should all come and have a look at me".

I know it is to late for recriminations with your friends and what they need is your support so as I'm writing this I am getting angrier and my answer is YES bust him if you can prove he is being deliberate.

Website links for the NZ AIDS Foundation, Body Positive and OUTline NZ are provided below. GayNZ.com readers affected by the issues addressed in this article are encouraged to contact them for advice and support.


GayNZ.com - 26th November 2008