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Zim man charged with exposing 4 partners to HIV in Canada



By Staff Reporter
Posted to the web: 19/11/2008 03:08:09

A ZIMBABWEAN singer has gone on trial in Canada, charged with exposing four sexual partners to HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Charles Mzite, 36, a performer with a marimba outfit called Jambanja, faces four counts of aggravated assault.

The British Columbia Supreme Court heard Monday how Mzite arrived in Canada in May 2001 on a visitor’s visa. Shortly after, he became a founder member of Jambanja which performed on the streets of Victoria, where he lived.

Crown prosecutor Nils Jensen, outlining the case against Mzite before Justice Robert Johnston, said the dreadlocked singer had known about his HIV status from the mid-1990s, but had neglected to tell his sexual partners.

Mzite was arrested in Vancouver in September 2007 after one of his former girlfriends tested positive for HIV antibodies.

Jensen said evidence will show Mzite came to Canada at the invitation of a Victoria woman who met him in Zimbabwe. They had a brief relationship, said Jensen.

A couple of months after Mzite moved to Canada, the woman -- who is not a complainant -- met someone at a music festival who told her Mzite was HIV-positive. She confronted Mzite and insisted he be tested.

On July 26, 2001, Mzite was tested at the Cook Street clinic but never picked up his result, said Jensen. Mzite told the woman his test was negative.

"That, the Crown will say, is a lie," said Jensen. "In fact, VIHA records show the test came back HIV-positive."

Mzite didn't pick up his result because he already knew in 2001 he is HIV-positive, said Jensen. After this test, he went on to have unprotected sex with four other women and did not tell any of them about his HIV status.

The third complainant, who is infected with HIV, had sex with Mzite from July to December 2003. She heard of his HIV status from a friend.

After testing positive for HIV, she took Mzite to be tested again at the Cook Street clinic in 2004, then went back with him for his results.

"She was with the accused when he was told at the clinic he is HIV-positive," said Jensen. "And the evidence will show he showed little emotion because he already knew of his status because of testing he'd done a short time before in Vancouver."

The Crown will call evidence from the Centre for Disease Control, the central repository of all HIV-positive test records.

Dr. Chris Fraser, a HIV/AIDS expert, is expected to testify that the amount of Mzite's viral loading shows he was HIV-positive for some time.

The third complainant is expected to testify that Mzite confided to her in 2006 that he knew he was HIV-positive from the mid-1990s.

Outside court, Jensen said this is the first case of its kind for Victoria.

Sentencing for people convicted of aggravated sexual assault have ranged from a few years in jail to a 15-year sentence for a British Columbia man who had six victims and infected three.
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