HIV Transgender Sex Worker ‘Did not Want to Face Reality’

A transgender sex worker who allegedly infected a client with HIV did not want to face reality after her test results came back positive and continued working as a prostitute, a court has been told.

Clayton James Palmer, who identifies as a woman and worked under the name Sienna Fox, is accused of repeatedly having unprotected sex with a man in 2015 despite knowing she had tested positive to HIV.

Ms Palmer, who is on trial in the District Court charged with causing grievous bodily harm, says the diagnosis was not communicated to her and she may not have been the person who passed on the virus to the alleged victim.

A nurse from the WA Substance Users Association, Joanne Morgan, tested Ms Palmer for blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections in August 2014.

Prosecutor Ben Stanwix said Ms Morgan told Ms Palmer her initial test was positive for HIV during a home visit and gave her information about the virus and her disclosure obligations.

He said Ms Morgan’s notes from the visit indicate Ms Palmer asked her if she was going to die, if she would have to take medication forever and where she got the virus from.

Mr Stanwix said Ms Palmer told Ms Morgan she would not be able to make her next appointment then stopped answering her phone calls and text messages.

“Ms Palmer, it seems, didn’t want to face reality,” he said.

“Despite what Ms Palmer had been told by Ms Morgan, she continued to advertise her sexual services online.”

Ms Palmer met the complainant, whose name is suppressed, in November 2014 and had sex with him a number of times until about August 2015.

Mr Stanwix said the client asked Ms Palmer several times if she had been tested for sexually transmitted infections and she assured him she was tested regularly and did not have any.

The man started to feel ill in September 2015 and was diagnosed with HIV shortly after he went to hospital.

Mr Stanwix said Ms Palmer and the alleged victim had the same “relatively rare” subtype of the virus.

“The accused was in charge of something dangerous, specifically bodily fluids that were infected with HIV,” Mr Stanwix said.

“The accused’s failure to take reasonable care and precaution was, we say, negligence so grave as to justify criminal conviction.”

Defence lawyer Simon Freitag told the jury there were different versions of the conversation between Ms Palmer and the nurse and said his client could not be found guilty if she was not aware she had HIV.

He said there were issues with the “chaotic” WASUA and Ms Morgan had her own personal issues when she was working for the organisation.

“It is not the case that Ms Morgan is the stereotypical image of a nurse that you might expect,” he said.

Mr Freitag told the jury they might have reason to question the alleged victim’s claim that he had sex with Ms Palmer and no one else between meeting her and being diagnosed with HIV.

He said scientists and doctors could not say how the virus was transmitted to the complainant.

Both Mr Stanwix and Mr Freitag urged the jury to decide the case on the evidence and put aside any views they might have about drugs, sex, prostitutes or transgender people.

“You are going to hear some words that you would not normally hear in polite company,” Mr Freitag said.

“Whether you are a sex worker, a lawyer, an accountant, whatever, if you drive trucks for a living, in this court you have the same rights.

“Treat Ms Palmer in the same way you would treat her if you heard she was an accountant.”