In a frightening twist out of the UK, a court found a gay man guilty of deliberately infecting sex partners with HIV.
The British court determined the guilt of Daryll Rowe, a 26-year-old hairdresser from Edinburgh, after victims claimed Rowe had infected them with HIV on purpose. Police reports show that Rowe had infected five men, and had attempted to infect five more.
Details of Rowe’s attacks emerged during the trial, and in an interview a victim granted to Buzzfeed News. According to testimony, Rowe would meet men on Grindr for sex, then pressure them into condomless sex. If a partner refused, Rowe would use sabotaged condoms or remove a condom in order to infect his partner. Rowe also lied about his HIV status when asked.
Worse, Rowe would taunt his victims with crude messages. “Maybe you have the fever… I HAVE HIV LOL,” Rowe said to a victim in one text message.
“I ripped the condom, so burn,” he said in another. On another occasion he said “Remember this, ugly fuck. You’ll be alone forever.” Rowe also harassed and threatened his victims via phone calls.
Throughout his trial, Rowe denied having HIV until a video from 2015 emerged showing him engaging in urine therapy to treat HIV. Court documents show Rowe rejected antiretroviral therapy in favor of alternative “treatment” which has shown no success in fighting HIV.
In his trial testimony, Rowe denied deliberately infecting his victims, claiming he thought he’d been cured by his alternative treatments. The court didn’t buy it: it found him guilty on all counts of grievous bodily harm. During the trial, Rowe’s victims remained anonymous, testifying behind a screen to protect their identities.
Criminal transmission of HIV remains a sensitive matter. While HIV advocacy groups have championed overturning criminal transmission laws, claiming they unfairly target people with the virus, defenders have said that the laws protect victims in cases like that of Daryll Rowe.