SYDNEY – A Zimbabwean circus acrobat who infected his girlfriend with HIV through frequent unprotected sex received a suspended sentence on Friday after winning an appeal against a conviction of deliberately passing on the virus that causes AIDS.
Godfrey Zaburoni was originally sentenced by an Australian court in 2013 to more than nine years in prison on a charge of unlawfully and intentionally transmitting a serious disease. He appealed the conviction, and in April Australia's highest court ruled there was no evidence that Zaburoni had intended to infect his girlfriend during their two-year relationship, which ended in 2008.
On Friday, Brisbane District Court Judge Julie Dick sentenced Zaburoni to five years in prison on the lesser charge of unlawfully doing grievous bodily harm, which he had already pleaded guilty to. The judge immediately suspended the sentence, however, since Zaburoni had already served more than three years.
Dick said she took into consideration Zaburoni's guilty plea and his attempts at rehabilitation, but said her decision was difficult since his offense was not a one-off act.
Zaburoni, who lives on Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland state, came to Australia in 1997 and was diagnosed with HIV the following year. He toured the nation with circus troupes and gained fame as a contestant on the TV show "Australia's Got Talent."
He repeatedly told his girlfriend he was HIV-negative until she was diagnosed with the virus in 2009 and confronted him.
State health authorities issued a public warning in 2010 that Zaburoni had admitted to police to having unprotected sex with 12 women in Australia.