Man injects sleeping wife with HIV

BY LEIGH VAN DER STOEP
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2009

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An HIV-positive man injected his wife with his own blood while she slept, infecting her with the virus that causes Aids.

It is believed the man wanted to give her the disease so she would start having sex with him again. She told police he also hoped it would prevent her from finding another man and leaving him.

The man, 35, admitted infecting his wife, in the first case of its kind in New Zealand. In other cases, HIV-positive people have infected others through unprotected sex.

The man has been remanded in prison awaiting sentence for wilfully infecting another with a disease, an offence that carries a maximum 14 years' imprisonment. The pair cannot be identified.

In court documents, the woman, 33, described how her husband twice pricked her with a sewing needle laced with his infected blood as she slept and how she once caught him handling a syringe full of his blood.

In the year before the man pricked his now-estranged wife, the couple had been experiencing relationship problems, in part because of the woman's refusal to have sex with him, as she feared she would contract the disease.

She had tested negative for the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) on at least four occasions before the year-long abstinence, so police were certain the needle stick had caused her to be infected.

In her evidence, the woman said when she confronted the husband with the diagnosis late last year he admitted dipping a "sewing needle" in his blood and pricking her with it.

"All he said [was] he was sorry. He said: 'I used needles on you because I wanted you to be the same as me so that you can live with me and you won't leave me'."

The man discovered he was HIV-positive during health checks imposed on the family upon arrival in New Zealand in 2004. Tests on the woman and their children showed they were not infected with the virus.

The couple received support from the Auckland Infectious Disease Centre and refugee services, and continued to live together, taking precautions against infecting others. The couple had protected sex for a number of years until 2007, when the woman became too scared of contracting the virus and insisted on abstinence.

The woman told the court: "I just wanted to maintain the relationship for the sake of the children ... He insisted on staying and he mentioned that he was not worried about sex ... any more. All he wanted [was] to see the children grow with both parents under one roof."

Then in May last year she discovered a sting-like mark on her left thigh. "After having a shower I put some lotion on myself and I could feel pain on my thigh. When I looked at it, it was turning red like a circle, getting bigger and bigger."

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Later that morning, when she returned home from her nursing studies unexpectedly, she saw her husband in the bedroom with a syringe full of blood.

She said he pushed past her and walked away, refusing to talk about it. She searched the rubbish for evidence of the syringe but found nothing.

Two days later she awoke to a stinging feeling in her leg. "In my sleep I felt a prick on my leg. I got up ... and I flicked the blankets ... I looked at [the husband] and he was wide awake."

She asked him if he had pricked her and he said no. Later she found evidence of "blood sprinkles" on their duvet, which she says her husband tried to hide from her.

Concerned by his behaviour, she told him to leave the house. It was only in September, when her doctor suggested a test at a routine check-up, that she found she was HIV-positive.

A nurse who had been caring for the family was present when the woman met her GP to receive the news. In her evidence to the court, the nurse said: "At this meeting [the woman] was beside herself with emotion. [She] could not work out how she had got HIV because she stated that she had not sex with her partner for about a year."

The following month the nurse returned a phone call from the woman to hear her hysterical.

"The first words she said to me were, 'He did it', or something to that effect. [She] was crying and I asked her if I could speak to [the husband]. [He] came to the phone and I asked, 'Is this true?' He only replied that he needed to come and see me."

The nurse and an infectious disease specialist then met the couple.

"During that conversation [the husband] continued to cry and repeated, 'Please forgive me'."

Police charged the man in October last year when the pair went to the local police station so the woman could make a formal complaint.

At first he was also charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, but the charge was withdrawn when he pleaded guilty to the other charge earlier this year.

He is due to be sentenced in the Auckland High Court early next year. Simon Harger-Forde of the New Zealand Aids Foundation said the the organisation had never heard of a victim being infected in such a way "and with such intent".

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the deliberate and intentional nature of the HIV transmission that is reported to have occurred in this case."

He urged New Zealanders to view the case as an isolated incident.

HIGH-PROFILE HIV CASES THIS YEAR

* A man admits pricking his wife with a needle laced with his blood, after the couple stopped having sex because he was HIV-positive.

* Train driver Glenn Mills accused of infecting seven people with HIV and attempting to infect another seven through unprotected sex; he died in prison last week while charges were before the courts.

* A man was sentenced to 312 years in prison after infecting his girlfriend with HIV via unprotected sex. He repeatedly told her he did not have the disease.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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