German pop star convicted

German pop star, Nadja Benaissa, was found guilty on Thursday of causing grievous bodily harm to a man who contracted HIV after having unprotected sex with her. In addition to a two-year suspended sentence, Ms. Benaissa was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. Benaissa had faced up to 10 years behind bars.

The 28-year-old singer admitted that she concealed her HIV status from two other sexual partners. Several German magazines called the trial a “witch hunt” and thus disguising the fundamental issue that these men should have taken responsibility and used condoms.
In her testimony, Ms. Benaissa addressed this issue, “I also thought that my respective partners also bore some of the responsibility to talk about and contribute to preventing infection by using condoms. In this respect, I neglected my own responsibility. Today I have to admit that this was a big mistake on my part.”
Chad and I were drinking coffee this morning as he read the updates from a news website. Professionally, I am often asked when is it the right time to tell someone you’re HIV positive? My answer is, before you have sex with them.
Do I believe that everyone should protect themselves? Absolutely, and as Ms. Benaissa said in court, “My respective partners also bore some of the responsibility to talk about preventing infection by using condoms.” However, the issue of disclosure is often lost in between these two ethical beliefs. My concern is that Ms. Benaissa knowingly engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse with more than one man without warning them that she had an incurable disease. She lives in a country where that is illegal. So in this case, non-disclosure is a crime. More importantly than the community service, I would suggest she undergo psychological counseling. There seems to be a particularly sadist quality to her actions. Think about it. She engaged in unprotected sex knowing she was infected.
Chad said, “But what about the guys? They should have asked her. They didn’t want to use a condom. They are just as responsible.”
I do agree with Chad wholeheartedly. Both sides of this argument are valid, but often what happens is that we get lost in the argument and forget about the person. Ms. Benaissa’s actions strike me as though she was acting out of cruelty or depression.
Should everyone ask each person if they are HIV positive before they engage in sexual intercourse?
Is it wrong to withhold your HIV positive status when your partner doesn’t suggest using a condom?
I think so.
Chad asked, “So if you go to a bath house and forfeit using a condom, is it the same thing?”
I don’t think so.
When someone goes to a bath house, I doubt they’re thinking, “Oh this place is probably clean and disease free.”
It’s a fact that HIV transmission is increased among men who have sex with men that frequent bath houses. Plus the majority of the sex is anonymous. Ms. Benaissa knew her sexual partners. When I saw her picture on the news, I felt a surge of sympathy for her. She looked like a sweet woman, but one who needs some psychological help, not community service.


  1. Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I agree with you completely. Everyone bears the responsibility of disclosure before putting someone at risk.

    That said, in this day and age, everyone should be leery of having unprotected sex with anyone so I have mixed feelings about disclosure in this day and age.

    I do feel the men bear some responsibility for their own infection, however as you mentioned, she broke a written law.

    I can imagine the fear of rejection, and the knowledge that in the world we live in today, everyone is at risk, are both barriers to disclosure, however the law is the law in this situation with such a dire consequence, that law is obviously needed.

    I cannot understand the mentality of the “bare back” movement, it sickens me to know end to see these guys so flippantly ignoring their health and the health of others.

    Also, I was not really aware that transmission from woman to man during heterosexual intercourse was as easy as it apparently is.

    Perhaps this woman and the men both had that bias as well, that it is hard to get from a woman.

    Hopefully this case will enlighten more people, why is this not all over the news here?

    Oh, pharmaceutical companies… I guess they are happy…

    Nice informative post.

  2. Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    By the way, if you know what the law is here, about disclosure if you know your status…

    Also, for both countries, it feels like there should be at least SOME leeway if the person doesn’t ASK.

    It seems that there should be some legal issue if you are asked and you lie about your status…

    But here in the states, if you are not asked, are you required to tell?

    Is it different from lying or does asking even matter??

    Can you blog about the law here?


  3. FortWorthGuy
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    It has been a long time since I have been to a “safer sex” talk so I may be rusty on a few of the finer points. I feel that the non-use of a rubber (I still prefer the quaint old fashioned terms) is foolish unless the couple is in a monogamous relationship. Having said that…what are the odds of female to male transfer of HIV? It is my understanding that it is very, very small. Of course if it happens to you then I guess it is not all that small.

  4. Talia
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    She also said that she was told by a health counselor that the risk of transmission from a woman to a man was extremely low, almost impossible. It’s unfortunate that she did not have the facts anyone would need to make a well-informed decision about whether/when to disclose.

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