Nova Scotia

Halifax man convicted of aggravated sex assault for not disclosing HIV-positive status

Gregory Howard Bowser was convicted based on his own testimony, plus trial evidence given by the victim, a man whose identity is subject to a publication ban.

Gregory Howard Bowser had been instructed to wear a condom and disclose his HIV-positive status

The victim was 30 years old when the assault took place in April 2018 at a Halifax bathhouse. (Robert Short/CBC)

A Halifax man has been convicted of aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose his HIV-positive status prior to intercourse in 2018.

Gregory Howard Bowser, 30, was convicted based on his own testimony, plus trial evidence given by the victim, a man whose identity is subject to a publication ban. 

The victim was 30 years old when the assault took place on April 26, 2018, at the Torpedo Sauna and Spa, a bathhouse catering to men on Gottingen Street in Halifax. 

Bowser knew he was HIV-positive, having been told by his family doctor a month prior.

He was instructed twice by medical professionals that he needed to wear a condom and disclose his HIV-positive status to any prospective sexual partners. 

High viral load

Rick Hartlen, the Crown attorney in the case, said Bowser was waiting to begin HIV treatment while doctors designed an antiretroviral drug regime based on his bloodwork.

According to CATIE, a Toronto-based HIV education organization, multiple scientific studies showed that sex without a condom poses no risk of HIV transmission with viral loads under 200 copies/ml. Canada's Attorney General has directed against prosecutions in cases with suppressed viral loads. 

According to court documents, the viral load in Bowser's blood had been recently tested at 71,154 copies/ml. 

Victim went to hospital

Bowser testified he was drunk on wine and high on cocaine when he took a taxi to the bathhouse at around 2:30 a.m.

He and the victim struck up a conversation, and subsequently engaged in consensual sex acts including penetrative anal sex without condoms. 

It was not until after 4 a.m., when the two men returned to Bowser's apartment building in Dartmouth, that he disclosed his HIV-positive status in the elevator. 

The victim immediately called an ambulance, and went to hospital to receive treatment for HIV exposure. 

According to the judge's ruling, the victim experienced "great personal and professional discomfort," in the following months as a result of those treatments. 

It was during that period the victim contacted police. 

Sentencing scheduled in February

Canadian courts have ruled engaging in unprotected sex without disclosing HIV-positive status is an aggravated sexual assault, because it negates consent and endangers a victim's life.

Hartlen said sentencing will be complicated because Bowser disclosed his HIV-positive status relatively quickly, allowing the victim to seek immediate treatment. 

Hartlen noted, however, that some victims might not have the awareness and courage to promptly seek medical help. 

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for February.

Hartlen said he'll likely seek a federal sentence for Bowser of over two years in custody. 

About the Author

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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