by Thilaka Ravi on  August 1, 2008 at 2:54 PM AIDS/HIV News
 HIV Positive Oz Man Guilty of Attempting to Infect Partners
Michael John Neal, 49, an Australian from Coburg who is HIV positive since 2001 has been convicted of attempting to spread the virus to other men.

After a six-week trial, Neal was found guilty today of 15 charges, including attempting to infect another person with HIV, rape, reckless conduct endangering a person and procuring sexual penetration by fraud.

Neal has also pleaded guilty to 12 additional counts, that include producing child pornography, possessing child pornography, indecent acts with a child under 16, trafficking in a drug of dependence and possessing a drug of dependence.

Prosecutor Mark Rochford said during the trial, Neal had set out to infect as many people as possible with HIV to serve his own needs and fulfill his desire to have unprotected sex.

Prosecutor Rochford told the court that Neal also told a number of his sexual partners "he wanted to make others HIV positive so that he could increase the amount of people he could have unsafe sex with." Witnesses said Neal had bragged about infecting 75 people and told one of his partners he "gets off'' on infecting people.

A number of witnesses came forward to give evidence they had unprotected sex with Neal and he had failed to tell them of his HIV status.

Neal's counsel, George Georgiou, argued throughout the trial that Neal genuinely did not believe he was able to pass on the HIV virus because of his undetectable viral load the amount of HIV in the bloodstream.

The court was told Neal organized "conversion" sex parties and wore a genital piercing to make it easier to transmit the AIDS disease.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) opened a file on Neal in November 2001 after his doctor contacted it about his sexual behavior and his responsibility to practise safe sex and his obligation to disclose his HIV status.

Between November 2001 and April 7, 2006, the department sent Neal three letters and served four orders issued under section 121 of the Health Act. But Neal continued to have unprotected sex.

Strangely, the DHS relaxed restrictions placed on Neal's movements after he wrote to the chief health officer, Robert Hall, in 2005 telling him that his viral loads were undetectable and he could not pass on HIV to others.

Dr Hall was subsequently dismissed by Health minister Bronwyn Pike after it emerged he had not acted responsibly despite knowing Neal posed a serious risk to public health, and had ignored advice from an expert advisory panel that Neal should be detained under the Health Act.

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Eric Harbis said about the verdict, "There would be a degree of disappointment to some extent, but overall we are very happy with the result. It was a team effort."

"I commend the many victims and witnesses that came forward who had to recount some very private parts of their lives, which they did in the public arena, and should be commended," Sergeant Harbis added.

Neal, who faces up to 25 years in jail on some counts and was remanded in custody, will appear for a pre-sentence hearing on October 29.

Source: Medindia

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