Ottawa Police disclosed that gay man transmitted “infectious disease”
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
August 24th, 2010
Gay groups in Ottawa are furious with the police for releasing information about a gay man’s sexual health, so furious in fact that they are refusing funds from a police fundraiser. (Citizen)
Several groups in Ottawa’s gay community will refuse funds to be raised by police at a pancake breakfast Monday, in protest over how officers publicly identified an HIV-positive man.
In an unusual move that infuriated the gay community, police publicly released a photo of Steven Paul Boone, 29, charged in May with aggravated sexual assault. Police say he failed to disclose his HIV status to another Ottawa man who contracted the disease after the two had unprotected sex several times.
The story began in May when Boone was arrested. (CBC)
Steven Paul Boone, 29, remained in custody Friday after being charged with nine counts of aggravated sexual assault, said an Ottawa police news release.
The charges were laid after another man alleged in April that he contracted an infectious disease after sexual contact with Boone in late January and early February. Police said they could not disclose the nature of the disease, including whether it was HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Although the police did not specifically state that the infectious disease was HIV, advocates felt that releasing the man’s photo was inappropriate.
By releasing the photo, [Brent Bauer, of the Ottawa Gay Men's Wellness Initiative] said, police invaded Boone’s privacy, and spread fear among gays, who might now hesitate to get tested for AIDS.
Okay, to see if I have Bauer’s logic correct, he thinks that because a man who failed to disclose his HIV-positive to sexual partners was exposed by the police, therefore people will not want to get tested.
Oddly enough, that theory was put to the practical test. And failed spectacularly. What Bauer is not acknowledging is that between the photo being released and the pancake breakfast something else happened: five additional victims came forward. (Citizen)
A 29-year-old man accused of failing to disclose his HIV-positive to sexual partners has had his charges upgraded to include attempted murder.
The four counts of attempted murder were laid against Steven Paul Boone in relation to four of his alleged victims. Boone has also been charged with four counts of administering a noxious substance — HIV — to the four men.
Here we have a guy with at least six victims, four of which seroconverted. And Boone did not disclose his status to any of them even though, as it turns out, he had known of his HIV status for at least a year. And it is at least a reasonable assumption that three of them would not have known to get tested if the police had not released this guy’s picture.
Studies regularly confirm that – because most people are not despicable vermin like Boone – the biggest contributor to the continued spread of HIV is ignorance of one’s status. Not only are most HIV+ people responsible, but medications can reduce viral loads to the point where it might not be possible to pass on the virus.
But if these men had not seen Boone’s picture, they may not have gotten tested before endangering others.
I can appreciate that the community in Ottawa is offended in that they believe the police are not considering their complaint about the privacy rights of those who are HIV positive. And I appreciate the value of clear guidelines that protect the privacy of the innocent. But I find the defense of Boone to be difficult to fathom.
I have long been an advocate for those impacted by HIV/AIDS. I was privy to the early debates over confidential v. anonymous testing and I am still not convinced that names-based reporting is the most effective policy (or at least not as it is currently administered).
But I believe we should be doing everything in our power to stop the continued spread of HIV within our community. That should drive our policies and our sympathies and if that means that we put the interests of the uninfected – even the irresponsible uninfected – ahead of those who are deliberately endangering others, I have no problem with that.
I don’t wish to threaten the privacy of the vast majority of responsible HIV positive people who would never dream of doing anything that would pass on this virus. But people like Boone are a danger and a threat to the members of our community and we are fools if we put their interests before our own.