Behind Bars: Discovering Your Former Partner is HIV Positive

Kevin Osborne

This intervew with Marama Pala, an executive director from New Zealand who discovered that her former partner was HIV positive when she saw him on the front page of a newspaper article entitled 'Face of Fear,' is part of the Behind Bars series by Kevin Osborne and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

This intervew with Marama Pala, an executive director from New Zealand who discovered that her former partner was HIV positive when she saw him on the front page of a newspaper article entitled ‘Face of Fear,’ is part of the Behind Bars series by Kevin Osborne and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

“The High Court Trial awful for me, he was found guilty by jury and sentenced to seven years imprisonment, on his release he was deported. During the trial he had large numbers of supporters trying to keep him in the country for his daughter. I was made the villain because I put him in jail and forced him out of the country.”

I was infected on 23 July 1993 by an African Man in New Zealand – Peter Mwai. I found out that he had HIV from a newspaper article with his face on the front page saying ‘FACE OF FEAR’.

The article below described how he had infected women with HIV and if anyone had had contact with this man to ring the police. I did, and then was asked that, if I should I test positive, would I help them stop this man from infecting any other women? I said yes, and then I was tested shortly after.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

After a two week wait the test came back positive and charges were laid. 

The police had evidence that he was told he had HIV in June by an infectious diseases clinician. I was infected in July, and fell within the time frame to charge him. Whereas the other women he infected didn’t, but five other women could charge him with reckless endangerment.

I had asked him to wear a condom, he refused. I did not insist, because I had very little knowledge about HIV, I thought he was too healthy-looking and he had already shown me a picture of his baby daughter who was healthy too.

HIV transmission is currently not the subject of a specific ‘law’ in New Zealand, but there is  legislation from 1969 about intentionally infecting someone with a disease. Peter Mwai was originally charged with this, but the police could not prove ‘intent’ and the charge was lessened to Grievous Bodily Harm, as well as the reckless endangerment charges.

There was a High Court Trial – that was awful for me. He was found guilty by jury and sentenced to seven years imprisonment, on his release he was deported, and subsequently died of TB in Uganda. During the trial and his release time he had large numbers of supporters trying to keep him in the country for his daughter. I was made to feel like the villain because I put him in jail and forced him out of the country.

I think there is sufficient criminal law to stop the rare person who behaves irresponsibly. New laws would cause more stigma and discrimination for those already living with HIV.

Not all people living with HIV are reckless, 95 per cent of them would be deeply affected should they ever infect another person. It’s the people that don’t give a damn and intentionally or thoughtlessly expose people to the virus – that small five per cent is making it worse for the rest of us, and they need to be held accountable.

Age and wisdom have changed my mind about this issue. At the time the case was so hyped, and drama-filled. I believed I’d be supported afterwards, I wasn’t.

I was so young and easily influenced by the police. I had no idea of the consequences at the time.

This court case did no favours for dark-skinned men living with HIV in New Zealand. It created a stereotype that all ‘black’ men with HIV were intentionally infecting large numbers of women. 

Yet the evidence shows there have only been a few cases. The few have made it worse for the rest of us. Now I’m married to a HIV positive man from Papua New Guinea, and he is dark skinned.

My husband and I have a great relationship, but he is very aware that, should it end, and if he was to live as a single man in New Zealnad, that the stereotype would follow him. The truth of this came home to me on one occasion when he was discriminated against, unfairly, by the police because of the colour of his skin and his HIV status.  

I take the approach that no disclosure is necessary if safe sex is practiced, but if someone is having casual sex on more than one occasion, then that becomes a grey area.

I still support the idea that it is the decision of the person living with HIV, as long as they practice safe sex.

Apart from those two scenarios, I would still support the right of the person living with HIV to make that decision, either way; it’s a personal choice to trust someone with those details.

Personally, I have told every sexual partner since my infection, but because of my trial and the subsequent publicity, I was exposed and everybody knew of my case and my infection, therefore I had no choice but to disclose, in case they found out another way. 

If someone has an unsafe sexual encounter, I would support the anonymous disclosure of the ‘track and trace’ system through a sexual health clinic. It isn’t only the responsibility of the person living with HIV to stay safe. 

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Human Rights

Remaining Charges Dropped Against Officers in Freddie Gray Case

Michelle D. Anderson

Gray, who was Black, died of a neck injury a week after being taken into police custody in April 2015. The 25-year-old’s death led to widespread protest and civil disobedience against racial injustice and a number of reforms in Baltimore and across Maryland.

Three Baltimore Police Department officers charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray will not go to trial as originally planned.

Chief Deputy State Attorney Michael Schatzow of the Baltimore City State Attorney’s Office said during a court hearing Wednesday that his office would not prosecute Officer Garrett Miller and Sgt. Alicia White or attempt to retry Officer William Porter, whose case ended in a mistrial in December.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had charged Miller, White, and Porter, along with Officer Edward Nero, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., and Lt. Brian Rice, in Gray’s May 2015 death in police custody.

The officers faced an array of charges, ranging from second-degree depraved-heart murder and reckless endangerment to second-degree assault and involuntary manslaughter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

All of the officers pleaded not guilty.

Judge Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted Nero, Goodson, and Rice during bench trials that ended in May, June, and July, respectively. Miller’s trial was set to begin Wednesday; White, October 13, and Porter, September 6.

Gray, who was Black, died of a neck injury a week after being taken into police custody in April 2015. The 25-year-old’s death led to widespread protest and civil disobedience against racial injustice and a number of reforms in Baltimore and across Maryland.

Mosby, in filing charges against the officers, attempted to hold law enforcement accountable for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt after transporting him in a police van following his arrest, among other alleged negligent acts. Prosecutors charged that Gray was illegally detained before police officers found a knife in his pocket.

Mosby stood by her decision to bring charges against the six officers during a brief press conference held near the Gilmor Homes public housing project, where Gray was taken into police custody.

“We stand by the medical examiners determination that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide,” Mosby said.

She touted her team’s success during the trials, including an appellate court victory that led some officers to testify against one another and asserted that a summary judgment was among many reasons she had “legitimate reasons” to pursue criminal charges.

Mosby praised the reforms that had come over the past year, including a new “use of force” policy Baltimore police instituted this year. The new policy emphasizes de-escalation and accountability. It marks the first rewrite of the policy since 2003.

“For those that believe I am anti-police, that’s simply not the case. I am anti-police brutality,” Mosby said.

The conference was the first time Mosby had spoken in months, since a gag order imposed by Williams had kept prosecution and defense alike from commenting on the police trials.

The decision to drop charges stemmed from “an apparent acknowledgement” that convictions were unlikely for the remaining officers, the Baltimore Sun reported.

This was because the prosecution would face major challenges during Miller’s trial since they wouldn’t be able to use anything he said on the witness stand during Nero’s trial in an attempt to convict him. Miller had spoken during Nero’s trial in an immunized testimony and with protections against self incrimination, the Sun reported.

Williams said in previous trials that prosecutors failed to show sufficient evidence to support their stance that the officers acted recklessly and caused Gray’s death. He said prosecutors wanted him to rely on “presumptions or assumptions” and rejected the notion that police intentionally gave Gray a “rough ride” in the police vehicle, according to numerous news reports.

The decision to drop charges drew criticism from many activists and citizens alike, but drew praise from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 union, which had repeatedly urged the prosecution to drop charges.

Baltimore Bloc, a local grassroots group, said in a statement this spring that Mosby should be removed from office for failing to secure convictions against officers and continued to criticize her on Twitter after the announcement that charges would be dropped.