Opening doors to disease

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JOHNSON Aziga is an immigrant from Uganda to Canada. By all accounts he is an educated, well-spoken man who had a responsible job with the Ontario government, a man clearly capable of understanding problematic situations.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/04/2009 (4991 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

JOHNSON Aziga is an immigrant from Uganda to Canada. By all accounts he is an educated, well-spoken man who had a responsible job with the Ontario government, a man clearly capable of understanding problematic situations.

In 1996 he was diagnosed as having HIV and was told that he must inform any sexual partner of his disease and use condoms during any form of sexual intercourse. He indicated that he understood that and that he would comply but he nevertheless went on over the next few years to have unprotected sex with no fewer than 13 women, seven of whom became infected with HIV, two of whom developed full-blown AIDS and died, while the rest live under a looming death sentence.

On Saturday, a jury in Ontario found Johnson Aziga guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault. Although, since the early 1990s in Canada alone, at least 70 people have been charged with infecting their partners with HIV, Aziga’s case is unique in that it marks the first time in this country, perhaps in the world, that someone has been accused and convicted of first-degree murder for such a crime. It is a verdict that finally recognizes the careless or wilful transmission of HIV as the act of deliberate violence that it is. All sexually active Canadians should feel a little more comfortable because of that.

07 april 2009 edit dinky cummings

No Canadian, however, should feel very comfortable about this country’s immigration regulations as demonstrated in the Aziga case and in other cases as well.

Although Johnson Aziga came to Canada from a continent, Africa, where AIDS is endemic, and from a country that has had one of the highest rates of HIV infection on that continent, he was not tested for the disease before he was accepted as an immigrant. It was doctors in Canada who diagnosed him and cautioned him — to no point as it turned out — about the communicability of his disease.

The cost of this in terms of human suffering by the women who were Aziga’s victims — and there is no other word to describe them — is immeasurable. The cost to the taxpayers through the nation’s health system is huge — HIV cannot be cured, although it can be treated at great expense.

This is not a problem confined to HIV, however. Immigrants are not subject to testing for equally debilitating and deadly contagious diseases, with far more wide-ranging consequences. There cannot be a conscious Canadian who does not know how to avoid HIV and AIDS in most circumstances. You might get it from a tainted blood supply through no fault of your own, but you will not get it by sitting next to a stranger in a cafeteria or on the bus.

You might very well, however, get tuberculosis that way. TB is a highly infectious disease that is easily passed like the common cold. It was once almost eradicated in Canada, but it is on the rise again, largely because immigration rules do not require applicants from countries where the disease is common to be tested for it. Some are tested after they have arrived here, but, putting Indian reserves aside, almost two-thirds of Canadians affected with tuberculosis are immigrants or refugees.

Tuberculosis is easily curable but hard to avoid when it appears. HIV is almost entirely avoidable but as yet incurable. Both can be deadly. Canadians should ask their politicians why they are being needlessly exposed to either.

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