Police contacting people as HIV-positive man charged with unprotected sex
An HIV-positive man has been arrested on suspicion of having unprotected sex with several men, without telling them he was infected.
Police have been contacting people who had sexual encounters with Johnny Lumsden, 26, urging them to get HIV tests.
He was arrested on November 7 on allegations he had unprotected sex with a young man without disclosing his HIV-positive status.
Police have since laid more criminal nuisance charges, alleging Lumsden had unprotected sex with two more men. One of the three encounters occurred on October 19, 2016.
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The young men were aged in their 20s and 30s. Two have since been cleared of infection, while the other is awaiting test results.
If he turns out to have contracted HIV, Lumsden could be charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Anderson said Lumsden met the men via Grindr, a dating app similar to Tinder, and had sex with them in Christchurch.
The alleged offending came to light after one complainant told his doctor about the sexual encounter. The doctor was "under an obligation" to tell him Lumsden had HIV, Anderson said.
Police began an investigation and, using contacts provided by Lumsden, contacted people he had slept with.
Some of them had had protected sex with him, or already had HIV. Others "didn't want to be involved in further police action".
The inquiries focused on encounters in Canterbury. However, Lumsden, originally from Northland, is known to have travelled to other parts of the country, and to have lived in Australia in recent years.
"There could well be other people who have had unprotected sex with this man without him disclosing his HIV status to them," Anderson said.
People can be prosecuted for having unprotected sex without disclosing their HIV-positive status, but they do not have to disclose it if they use precautions.
That precedent was set in a landmark 2005 case, in which a Lower Hutt man was acquitted for not disclosing his HIV-positive status to a woman he slept with, because he used a condom.
Aids Foundation executive director Jason Myers said such cases were rare. "We know that the vast majority of people living with HIV do not act in this way."
Canterbury's Sexual Health Centre clinical director Edward Coughlan said testing was vital, as infections could go undetected until it was too late.
An increasing number of syphilis cases, particularly among gay men, was a growing concern in Canterbury, he said.
"From our discussions with those who do get checked, is they tell us that smartphone apps make it very easy for people to find sexual partners.
It is not unheard of for some people to use the apps to have opportunistic sexual encounters – sometimes without ever learning the other person's name, or any of their sexual history."
He said people told the centre of unprotected sex sometimes with multiple partners in one day.
"This attitude of complacency towards sex and any consequences is a concern for health services. It also makes it difficult for us to trace contacts of an infected person."
Coughlan said using condoms, regular sexual health checks and limiting numbers of sexual partners remained the best protection against contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
HOW COMMON IS HIV NOW?
In 1986, about 120 people were diagnosed with HIV in one year, a rate of 3.6 diagnoses per 100,000 population.
In 2015 there were 4.9 diagnoses per 100,000 population, and nine people's HIV infection developed into Aids.
Those figures, from Otago University's AIDS Epidemiology Group, show 224 people were diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2015, with 153 among that number being men who had sex with men.
About 3500 people in New Zealand were living with HIV by the end of 2015, a rate of 70 per 100,000 population.
Myers said reasons behind the steady rise in diagnoses were complex, but were thought to be related to more people getting tested, and advances in treatment that meant HIV/Aids was no longer a "death warrant".
That meant sexually active people were more likely to encounter someone with the infection during their lifetime, he added.
A RARE CRIME
1993: Kenyan musician Peter Mwai was the first man in New Zealand to be prosecuted for deliberately infecting a woman with HIV. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
1999: Christchurch man Christopher Truscott was convicted over having sex with four men without disclosing he had HIV. He spent his sentence in a "secure" care facility from which he has escaped multiple times.
1999: David Purvis pleaded guilty and was jailed for having unprotected sex with another man without disclosing his HIV-positive status.
2004: Zimbabwean Shingirayi Nyarirangwe was jailed in Auckland after having unprotected sex with four women.
2005: Lower Hutt man Justin Dalley was accused of keeping his HIV status secret from two women he slept with. He had not worn a condom with the first woman, and for that he was convicted. But he did wear a condom with the second woman and the judge made a landmark decision that the use of protection amounted to Dalley to be taking "reasonable precautions" and acquitted him on those charges.
2009 Aucklander Glenn Mills, who faced trial relating to infecting seven sexual partners with HIV took his own life. He faced 28 charges total related to 11 men and three women. The youngest alleged victim was 18.
2015: An Auckland man was charged with grievous bodily harm and criminal nuisance after infecting another man between December 2014 and January 2015.
Anyone concerned is urged to contact police, or for advice call Body Positive at 0800 HIV LINE (0800 448 5463). Free HIV tests can be booked via the AIDS Foundation website.