Johnson Aziga (born 1956) is a Ugandan-born Canadian man formerly resident in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, notable as the first person to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder in Canada for spreading HIV, after two women whom he had infected without their knowledge died.
Aziga was a former staffer at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. According to CBC News, he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996. He had unprotected sex with 11 women without telling them he was HIV-positive. Seven of these women later tested positive for HIV, two of whom died of complications of AIDS, in December 2003 and May 2004.
Several Canadian courts have ruled that persons who are not informed that a sexual partner is HIV-positive cannot truly give consent to sex. As a consequence of this, the death of the two women is automatically considered to be murder instead of a lesser charge such as manslaughter.
Arrest and trial
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Aziga was arrested in August 2003. On November 16, 2005, Justice Norman Bennett of Hamilton ruled there is sufficient evidence for Aziga to stand trial. His trial date was initially set for May 2007 but was moved back several times. As of May, 2008, the trial was set to begin October 6, 2008.
The decision to try Aziga was criticized by Richard Elliott, deputy director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, who described the decision as "not particularly helpful" and argued that it may lead to a "dominant impression out there of people living with HIV as potential criminals, which is not an accurate or fair representation.”
Aziga was not the first Canadian ever to face criminal charges for knowingly exposing others to HIV. In an earlier case, Charles Ssenyonga of London, Ontario was prosecuted on the lesser charges of aggravated assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm, although he died of meningitis before a verdict was rendered in his case.
In the 1999 decision R. v. Cuerrier, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that people who knowingly exposed others to HIV through unprotected sex could be charged with a crime on the grounds that failure to disclose one's HIV status to a sex partner constitutes fraud.
Aziga's trial began in October 2008. Among the first revelations made in trial proceedings are claims by Aziga's former girlfriends that he lied about his HIV status and continued having unprotected sex until the morning of his arrest in 2003. Aziga's lawyers claim that no conclusive link can be shown to indicate that the deaths of his former girlfriends can be attributed to HIV/AIDS.
On April 4, 2009, Aziga was found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault, and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault by nine men and three women on Hamilton Superior Court jury. The murder convictions resulted from the fact that Canadian jurisprudence has established that failure to disclose one's HIV status before unprotected sex means that the partner cannot give consent (as they have been deliberately deprived of information that might cause a reasonable person to reconsider), resulting in the sexual act becoming aggravated sexual assault. Under Canadian law, any death resulting from aggravated sexual assault (i.e. the two women who died as a result of HIV/AIDS complications) is automatically murder in the first degree. Aziga was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years, the mandatory sentence in Canada for a conviction of first-degree murder. Aziga has expressed his intention to appeal his conviction.
On August 2, 2011, a court in Hamilton, Ont. granted a request by Crown Prosecutors to have Johnson Aziga jailed indefinitely under the Dangerous Offender act, because he is believed to be at a high risk to re-offend.
- Perkel, Colin (October 20, 2008). "HIV carrier failed to warn sex partners, Crown says". Toronto: The Canadian Press. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Legall, Paul (2008-01-26). "Ministry to pay for HIV defence". The Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). Retrieved 2008-05-24.
- The Globe and Mail (Toronto) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081120.BLATCH20/TPStory/TPComment/
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- Brown, Barbara (2009-04-04). "Guilty verdict in Hamilton HIV murder case". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- Jordana Huber, "Ontario man to appeal sentence in AIDS deaths", Canwest News Service, 2009-04-06.
- "HIV killer declared dangerous offender". CTV News (Toronto). 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
- HIV-positive man to stand trial on murder charges, CBC News, 14 November 2005
- HIV-positive man faces 2 murder charges for unprotected sex, CBC News, 25 February 2005
- Aziga found guilty of first-degree murder, CTV Toronto, 4 April 2009