Antonio Reyes-Minana of Nottingham, United Kingdom faced a judge Tuesday who sentenced him to seven years in prison after he was found guilty of recklessly failing to disclose his HIV-positive status to two men before engaging in unprotected sex. In one instance, he deceptively told his lover that he was HIV-negative.
The 25-year-old man was convicted by a jury on August 11 and found guilty on two counts of “grievous bodily harm” leading to the transmission of the HIV virus. Reyes-Minana had unprotected sex with two men in 2008 and 2012, meaning he was a teenager during the first encounter. Reyes-Minana, however, had been aware of his status since his 2010 diagnosis.
One of the men took a “routine” HIV test in 2012 and was diagnosed with HIV. The other was diagnosed in 2013. The incident was reported to local police and further HIV test results confirmed that both men and Reyes-Minana had the same HIV strain. More testing indicated that they were exposed to the virus at the same time that both encounter occurred.
Both victims were able to provide evidence proving that Reyes-Minana knew of his status and knowingly exposed them to the virus. One man asked Reyes-Minana if he was HIV-positive and he denied it. "Antonio Reyes-Minana withheld his HIV status to one partner and lied to the other,” James Allen from the Crown Prosecution Service said in a press release. "He lied about the nature of his relationships with the victims and tried to blame a third party for infecting them, insinuating that their allegations were part of a plot against him. However, scientific evidence supported the prosecution case that it was Reyes-Minana who had transmitted the virus to the victims.”
Reyes-Minana was sentenced to two consecutive three-and-a-half year sentences for each male victim. One of the victims was reportedly was a near-virgin. Prosecutor Simon Ash said both victims were affected by their initial diagnosis, leading to alcohol and suicidal thoughts—one of the first stages of going through an HIV diagnosis. "You broke their trust and stole their right to choose," Judge Stuart Rafferty QC said to the defendant.
James Bide-Thomas, who defended Reyes-Minana, said the defendant was infected at the age of 17 and had no criminal record. All young Reyes-Minana had to do was to say “I'm positive,” and the encounters probably would've continued anyways, albeit with protection. Gay men are surprisingly receptive and understanding of HIV in our day and age. Reyes-Minana's inexcusable Typhoid Mary-like behavior led to two unforgiving bitter ex's and hard time in prison. Reyes-Minana will serve half of the prison term in prison and then be eligible for parole, under the supervision of a probation officer.
Anytime anyone has unprotected sex with a stranger, they are rolling the dice. If you are HIV-negative, you obviously can't rely on what the other sex partner says. Mick Mason, regional manager of the HIV organization Terrence Higgins Trust wisely pointed out it's important that HIV transmission cases don't fuel the stigma that already surrounds HIV. “People who are on effective HIV treatment are not infectious,” Mason told the Nottingham Post. “This means the vast majority of HIV transmissions come from people who do not know they have the virus.” What that means is that one in seven with HIV don't know they have it, but they're generally the ones most responsible for spreading the virus.
Sadly Reyes-Minana isn't the only one who is irresponsibly spreading HIV. Canadian Brian Carlisle, 47, is facing three counts of aggravated sexual assault for having sex with “several” partners without disclosing his status. Carlisle appeared in court on August 3 and is currently out on bail. Per the bail conditions laid out by the court, Carlisle must abstain from social networking apps and dating services.
In Toronto, eight more victims have come forward after Ala Al Safi, 27, was charged with aggravated assault in June for failing to disclose his status to two male victims. Al Safi had sex with eight men between December 2011 and March 2017—all while claiming to be HIV-negative. On July 20 he was charged with eight more counts of aggravated assault. He used at least two aliases during his sexual encounters. Al Safi was given a “rare court order” demanding that he use condoms and inform sexual partners.
It's not only illegal to fail to disclose an HIV status, it's morally wrong. Most states offer services to anonymously notify any sexual partners about HIV status through the State Department of Health. Notifications can be sent in an anonymous text—the text no one wants. Do yourself a favor and avoid the legal ramifications of failing to disclose your status to every sexual partner.