In November 2017, Daryll Jack Thomas Rowe was the first person to be convicted of intentional HIV transmission in England and Wales, after he was charged with grievous bodily harm for infecting 5 sexual partners with HIV and attempted grievous bodily harm for 5 further cases in which HIV transmission did not occur. He later pleaded guilty to 4 more charges at a separate trial, where he admitted to having sex with 4 men knowing he was HIV-positive.
Daryll Rowe grew up in several foster homes as a child and when he was 8 years of age he moved in with his long-term family, where he continued to live until he was 19 years of age. His foster mother revealed during an interview that Daryll had scars on his body when he moved in, indicating there may have been some trauma when he was younger, which may have explained some of his actions later in life. Daryll’s long-term foster family appear to have given him a lot of love during his time living with them and they were completely shocked when they found out what he had done.
Daryll was diagnosed with HIV in April 2015 at a sexual health clinic in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was only a few months after this when the intentional HIV transmission attempts and offences started occurring, which was between October 2015 and December 2016, although it may have been earlier based on a WhatsApp conversation from August 2015. The victims were approached on Grindr and were convinced to have unprotected sex with Daryll and if they wouldn’t, he would tamper with the condoms by cutting off the tip or removing the condom during sex, which was unbeknown to his victims.
The victims would later find out they had potentially been infected after they received messages revealing that Daryll was HIV-positive, with one victim receiving a message that said “Maybe you have the fever. I came inside you and I have HIV LOL. Oops!” These messages were later used as evidence to demonstrate that Daryll deliberately infected his victims. In a cruel twist, one of Daryll’s victims who became HIV-positive, lost both his parents after they died from AIDS complications in the 1980s as a result of his father became HIV-positive from injecting drugs and he later infected the victim’s mother as well.
The situation has now improved with medical advancements, but back when these offences occurred, the victims did not have access to PrEP, as this medication was only approved for use in Scotland and Wales in 2017, Northern Ireland in 2018 and England in 2021, which was long after the offences took place in 2015 and 2016. PEP would have been available at the time, but Daryll made sure he only informed his victims after the 72 hours needed for PEP to be effective, to make sure they did not have the chance to stop the virus from infecting them.
According to the prosecutor’s statement in court, Daryll was warned he could be prosecuted for passing HIV on or even putting someone at risk of contracting HIV from him. Daryll was prescribed HIV medication in Scotland, but he refused antiretroviral therapy and later moved to Brighton in the United Kingdom. After Daryll discovered the authorities were aware of his actions, he suddenly moved to Newcastle in the United Kingdom and began using the name Gary Cole. All these actions were used against Daryll to prove he deliberately tried to infect other people and he went to great lengths to continue his infection spree.
The legal issue also caused some controversy for British based gay porn studio Blake Mason, where Daryll performed under the name Benjamin York between 2013 and 2014. Blake Mason is a safer sex studio where Daryll appeared in condom scenes with the studio before he had become infected. One of the victims allegedly had to pressure the studio for a lengthy period of time to remove the scenes featuring Benjamin York, which is something the studio has reportedly never done before.
During Daryll’s six week trial, the court heard that he had refused treatment and ignored advice from doctors. He also insisted on having unprotected sex with the men he met, by claiming he was clean. 24 men appeared in court to give evidence against him, but it is unknown how many victims there may have been or whether any other men were infected with the virus and did not come forward. Daryll was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum term of 12 years. Daryll tried to appeal the sentence unsuccessfully. It is unknown how Daryll became infected with HIV and perhaps was a victim himself and did what he did to try to regain some power from the situation.
In 2018, Century Films produced a documentary for BBC called “The Man Who Used HIV as a Weapon” that involves interviews with 5 of Daryll’s victims, which you can watch below. This film captures to emotional turmoil these victims have endured as a result of what happened to them. This case provides an important lesson to ensure that honest conversations about HIV status are had and acts as a reminder that stealthing is a crime in various parts of the world, where some countries compare stealthing to rape.
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Version Control: 1.0 – February 19, 2023: Original article published.