German pop singer Nadja Benaissa is on trial for knowingly exposing at least three men to HIV. The "No Angels" girlband singer is accused of "attempting and causing grievous bodily harm" and has confessed to having unprotected sex after finding out she had the virus. One of her partners later contracted AIDS and the two others are not infected with HIV, reports the AP.
The pop star was dramatically arrested and handcuffed at a Frankfurt concert and held for 10 days. Benaissa faces up to 10 years in prison if she is found guilty of violating Germany’s strict law against intentional or negligent HIV transmission, reports The New York Times. Benaissa became aware she was HIV positive in 1999 and had the unsafe sex with the three men from 2004 to 2006.
Der Spiegel reported that Ms. Benaissa, who was born in Frankfurt to a Moroccan father and a Serbian-German mother, sketched out for the court a life with some high but many low points. She said that she was drinking and smoking marijuana at 12 or 13 and addicted to crack by the age of 14. “For two years I lived on the street until I was pregnant at 16.” She then learned during a pregnancy screening that she was infected with H.I.V. Later, when her career suddenly took off — No Angels sold five million records after winning a talent contest on German television a decade ago — Ms. Benaissa said that she had concealed her infection in part because of worries about what a revelation would do the other members of the group.
Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, a German AIDS service organization, has an English website explaining German criminal law and HIV exposure.
Writing at The Guardian, noted HIV criminalization expert Edwin Bernard, a panelist at the recent International AIDS Conference in Vienna, calls the trial a "distracting sideshow" and says Benaissa is being scapegoated. "Around the world, more than 40 countries have convicted at least 600 people living with HIV. In the vast majority of cases, there was no intention and no transmission. The stigma surrounding HIV—exacerbated by the media circus that accompanies such trials—results in far more new infections."
A verdict is expected August 26.