HIV-positive star guilty of infecting her ex-boyfriend

GERMAN girl-band singer Nadja Benaissa broker down in tears yesterday as a court found her guilty of causing bodily harm to her former boyfriend by having unprotected sex with him despite knowing she was infected with HIV.

Benaissa, a member of the successful No Angels group, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and 300 hours community service after she was convicted in a Darmstadt administrative court. She faced a possible ten years behind bars.

The court ruled that the 28-year-old had infected a former boyfriend with the virus that causes AIDS by having unprotected sex with him.

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Benaissa helped her case during the trial, which began on 16 August, by acknowledging she had unprotected sex even though she knew she was HIV-positive and saying it was "a big mistake".

"I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart," Benaissa said, adding she had realised how much her ex-boyfriend was still suffering.

"I wish I could turn back time and make everything undone," she told the court. "But I know that he will never forgive me."

Prosecutor Peter Liesenfeld said he thought the sentence was appropriate.

"We have to remember she was a lot younger than she is now, she had a turbulent life, and the acts were committed a long time ago," he said. "I think a suspended sentence is justified."

Benaissa left the courtroom without making any comment, but her attorney Oliver Wallasch noted she had said during the trial that she thought she deserved to be punished.

"We managed to avoid a jail sentence for my client and with the conditions of the sentence, including some community service, which she said was justified during the trial, the sentence was satisfactory for the defence and my client," he said.

The man who said Benaissa infected him said they had a three-month relationship at the beginning of 2004. He was tested after Benaissa's aunt asked him in 2007 whether he was aware the singer was HIV-positive.

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Benaissa said kept her disease secret because she was afraid of the consequences — something she described during the trial as a "cowardly act".

During the trial, microbiologist Josef Eberle, who examined the viruses of both Benaissa and her former boyfriend, told the court "in all probability" the singer was responsible for infecting the 34-year-old man with the human immuno-virus.

Both had a rare type of the virus that was first found in western Africa, he said.

Benaissa told the court she became addicted to crack cocaine at 14 and found out she was HIV positive while pregnant at 16.

After winning TV talent show Popstars in 2000, she joined No Angels with four other young women. They sold more than five million albums before breaking up in 2003.The group was resurrected in 2007, but in the 2008 Eurovision song contest they came 23rd out of 25 entrants.

No Angels were heading into a concert in Frankfurt in April 2009, when Benaissa was arrested and held for ten days.

The AIDS awareness group Deutsche Aids-Hilfe argued that her partners carried a share of the responsibility for becoming infected. "If the responsibility for prevention is put entirely upon women and HIV-positive people, we are not recognising the combined responsibility of two people," said spokeswoman Marianne Rademacher.