London woman jailed for infecting partner with HIV - police actively investigated her sexual history to find past partners

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A woman in south London has been jailed for over two and a half years after she infected one of her sexual partners with HIV. The case has raised particular concern as the Metropolitan Police appear to have launched an active investigation to find the sexual partners of the woman to see if she had infected anybody with HIV.

Sarah Jane Porter’s ex-partner complained to the police that although she knew she was infected with HIV, she had unprotected sex with him without disclosing her HIV-positive status to him. Although he was not infected with HIV, the Metropolitan Police launched a year long enquiry to find Porter’s earlier sexual partners, one of whom tested HIV-positive.

Although several people have been convicted of recklessly infecting their sexual partners with HIV in the UK in recent years, these cases have all arisen from an initial complaint to the police after an individual tested HIV-positive. The Porter case appears to break new ground as the police in Brixton, a high crime area of south London, launched a man-power intensive enquiry when the only activity reported to them was unprotected sex by an HIV-positive person, which is not in itself a crime. The purpose of the police enquiry was to actively find the sexual partners of an HIV-positive individual.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust expressed her concerns about the case, saying, "'The prospect of the police investigating the sexual history of people living with HIV in this speculative way is profoundly stigmatising, and appears to treat everyone with HIV as a potential criminal. We seem to be back in the bad old days at the beginning of the epidemic when HIV had to be someone's fault. With only 46 per cent of people in 2005 always using a condom with a new sexual partner, it is time we stopped condemning some people living with HIV for majority behaviour. We must reassert the need for everyone to take responsibility for their own sexual health instead of instinctively trying to blame someone else."

The original Metropolitan Police press statement wrongly stated that Porter had been convicted of deliberately infecting her sexual partner and was changed after complaints, but not before this inaccuracy had been reproduced on the broadcast and web media.

Porter was sentenced to 32 months in jail.