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HIV-Positive German Pop Star Avoids Jail

A German pop star accused of infecting a former sexual partner with HIV will not serve time in prison.

Nadja Benaissa has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

The 28-year-old HIV-positive Banaissa was convicted on one count of grievous bodily harm and two counts of attempted bodily harm for having had unprotected sexual intercourse knowing she was HIV-positive. One of her former sexual partners is now HIV-positive.

Emotional appeal

Observers at the court said Benaissa broke down in tears after the sentence was read out.

Her trial has been a major media focus in Germany and across Europe in recent weeks and has raised a heated debate about the value of criminalizing HIV transmission.

Lisa Powers is head of policy at London-based AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.

She says it is good news that Benaissa will not have to serve time in prison – but, she says, even a suspended sentence sends out the wrong message.

"People often erroneously believe that by putting some people through a very high profile trial for this that that will make other people behave more safely," Powers said. "All the evidence shows that that is not the case."

Joins 'No Angels'

Benaissa was 16-years-old and three months pregnant when she found out she was HIV-positive. She went on to become a member of the successful German pop group No Angels. She kept her HIV status a secret, but after she was arrested in 2009 her story hit the headlines.

During the trial, Benaissa made an emotional apology and said she wished she could "turn back the clocks" of time.

HIV Control

Powers says the criminalization of HIV transmission does nothing to help stop the spread of HIV.

"The fact is we need to get people with HIV who are having difficulty with safer sex to come forward and ask for help," she added. "And if they think that they are going to be imprisoned rather than helped to change their ways, then where is the incentive for them to come forward and ask for help?"

The charges against Benaissa could have led to a maximum 10-year prison sentence.