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Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Week On

So it's a week since Glenn Mills' death. I for one can take no pleasure in the way his life ended. What I would have preferred is to see him stand trial, and, if found guilty (as I have no doubt he would have been) to do his time.



The trail of destruction he has left will continue to have its effects. We know of the people who came forward, but undoubtedly there were others, perhaps not infected, but at least treated with the same careless contempt by him in exposing them to HIV. And perhaps I'm being too optimistic here, but perhaps there are a number of people who've been infected by him, and we will never know exactly how many.


I've had to ask myself at times, if the decisions I took around all this were the right ones. I was not the first person to alert authorities, but I helped get things going. It has been one of the most ethically and emotionally fraught things I've ever had to deal with, but overall, yes, I did what I believe was the correct thing to do.


Analogies are always imperfect, but what would you do if you had concrete evidence someone was a serial-rapist, or a paedophile, what if in fact you'd been told this by one of his victims? What if you then heard through the grapevine of other victims? What do you do with that sort of information? I think you have a duty to take it to the right authorities, and personally I saw no difference here. But it wasn't an easy decision for me to make.


I know he has friends who love him and defend him. I can understand that. I don't believe he was simply a monster who only lived to infect people with HIV. But he had a part of his nature that did that without, it would seem, too many qualms.


I have heard people blame the men he infected for not taking better care of themselves, but it ignores the fact that even when he agreed to use condoms he had a history of deliberately tearing them or taking them off. The recent reports of his date-raping men also point to how he thought and operated. It wasn't about consent or care or love.


And there is a problem: Our entire safe-sex message, use a condom every time, is built on the idea of "Take personal responsibility for looking after your health". It's built on the idea that people are all in fact able to do this. But when you're newly coming out, perhaps with a family that is unsupportive of you because of your sexuality, you are in fact, more vulnerable, and less experienced. Yes, in NZ legally you are free to fuck from 16 on, but 16 year-olds are not renowned for the quality of their decision making, neither are 17, 18 or 19 year-olds. It's unfair and wrong to lump them all in as adults who are entirely responsible for their sexual health.



I think that those people who blame the really young people who got infected are simply wrong. These were little more than children out in the gay world, and all too easily inclined to trust this charismatic man. to say, as some have, that "They knew what they were doing!" is simply wrong. They thought they were in love with a man who they could trust, and they were young, naive and too trusting. I know he lied to these young men on more than one occasion when confronted about his HIV status.


And it seems that with a number of the other, older men, he deliberately lied, or again, tampered with the condom. I heard yet another story of this yesterday from someone who'd slept with him, but luckily did not get infected. My usual reaction when someone older gets infected is "That's terible, but it's not the end of the world, let's do what we can to support you" but I don't have a sense of blame, so I'm surprised to hear the voices raised here and there that blame anyone for getting infected in this case.


The people so willing to blame, and to, so it seems to me, take some sort of delight in finger-pointing and self-righteously cackling "It's your own fault for not using a condom!" are either totally ignorant of how this all happened, or nasty, vindictive and petty to a degree that is really disturbing.


The picture that emerges here of Mills is not clear, and not simple. While I'm sure he had many good and loveable qualities, he was also devious, manipulative and uncaring in his attitude to many when it came to his HIV. It is, I believe, impossible to interpret his actions as anything other than deliberate and malicious attempts to infect people. These weren't careless one-off accidents, but a pattern, repeated again and again on men and women, and some of them extremely vulnerable young men and women. He knew what he was doing, he had known since 2007. But he continued to do it.


His death means that those brave people who were willing to take the stand against him don't have to, and that has to be seen as a good thing for them. But it means he never has to face up to what he did. His death has left things hanging that will never be answered now, and I think that's unfair.


Was he mad, bad or just sad? I don't know. As I said at the start, I can take no pleasure in his death, but I think what he did was morally and ethically wrong on every level, and for that he deserved punishment.



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