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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 8 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 45
Canadian judge throws out HIV immigration suit - Authorities held not liable for letting Thai sex worker into country
Section One
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Canadian judge throws out HIV immigration suit - Authorities held not liable for letting Thai sex worker into country

by Mike Andrew SGN Staff Writer A Canadian judge has dismissed the lawsuit brought by a man against the Canadian federal government and the province of Ontario for allowing his ex-wife to enter the country and subsequently marry him when she was HIV-positive.

Percy Whiteman met his former wife, Suwalee 'Ricky' Iamkhong, at the Zanzibar Tavern in Toronto, where she worked as a stripper. Iamkhong was an immigrant from Thailand, where she had also worked as a stripper and a prostitute.

Iamkhong tested positive for HIV shortly before moving to Canada in 1995. Her previous husband had died of AIDS in Thailand, a fact she never disclosed to Whiteman. After their marriage, she and Whiteman had unprotected sex and he became infected with HIV as well.

Whiteman and Iamkhong were married from 1997 to 2004, when she fell ill. She was admitted to a hospital in February 2004 and was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Finally she revealed her status to Whiteman, who discovered he, too, was HIV-positive.

Iamkhong was convicted of criminal negligence for transmitting HIV to Whiteman, served two years in prison, and was deported from Canada in 2010.

In his suit, Whiteman charged that Canadian government officials were negligent in failing to protect him from his ex-wife's HIV infection. He asked for $33 million in compensation for becoming HIV-positive.

Judge Carole Brown disagreed, however.

NO LITIGABLE ISSUES
'It is extremely unfortunate, indeed tragic, that Mr. Percy Whiteman contracted HIV from his wife, Suwalee 'Ricky' Iamkhong, who he sponsored for permanent residency in Canada,' wrote Brown, but 'there are no genuine issues requiring a trial' against the defendants.

'I have concluded none of the defendants are responsible for Whiteman's contraction of HIV. Mr. Whiteman was the author of his own misfortune,' Brown continued.

Allen Cooper, owner of the Zanzibar Tavern and a co-defendant in the suit, said the 'case was quite distressing because it seemed meritless and totally ridiculous from the beginning.

'He married her and chose to have unprotected sex with her while he knew she was from Thailand and had been a prostitute. It wasn't our fault.'

'This would have set a terrible precedent for strip bars as they have to check their strippers for any diseases,' Cooper added.

Canada does not categorically prohibit HIV-positive people from becoming permanent residents, but some HIV-positive applicants are rejected if they cannot pay for their own medications. The Canadian government says that agreeing to accept indigent HIV patients would place 'excessive demand on health and social services.'

Visitors who plan to stay in Canada for less than six months do not have to disclose their HIV status, but as of 2005 permanent residence applicants must submit to an HIV test.

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