Turkish Police Identify HIV-Positive Sex Worker on Television
Turkish police during a recent televised news conference identified a Ukrainian sex worker who tested HIV-positive after her arrest and encouraged all individuals who had had sexual contact with the woman to get tested for the disease, the Chicago Tribune reports. The woman, Oksana Topor, was arrested for solicitation in Erzurum, Turkey, and given a medical exam that included an HIV test. After learning her HIV status, Topor gave police a notebook that listed the times and dates of 1,300 sexual encounters she had during the three months that she was in Erzurum. However, the notebook did not include patrons' names. In the days following the news conference, approximately 800 men went to two local hospitals to be tested for HIV, according to the Tribune. Health authorities say that it will be months before it is known whether a large number of men were infected by having sex with Topor, but officials believe that "at least a fraction" will test HIV-positive. "None of these men has tested positive at this point, but that is not surprising," Dr. Selcuk Bozhalil, director of the Numune Hospital, which has tested 150 men, said, adding, "HIV transmission from a woman to a man is relatively difficult. And it is too soon to be seeing positive tests." Bozhalil said that the hospital has asked the men to return for repeat HIV testing every two months, adding that he believes many of the men will be retested "because they are scared." Bozhalil said, "Worst-case scenario: Months from now, we may see an infection rate of 10%. I hope not." Turkey's health ministry has recorded about 1,600 HIV/AIDS cases in the country, which has a population of 70 million, according to the Tribune.
Erzurum police routinely arrest foreign sex workers and give them sexually transmitted disease tests before deporting them; however, Topor was the first arrested sex worker to test HIV-positive, according to the Tribune. Turkish human rights workers have criticized the decision to have Topor appear on television, and the Interior Ministry has opened an investigation. "You could have protected both" public health and Topor, Demet Gural, director of the Human Resource Development Foundation, said, adding, "Erzurum is one of the most fundamentalist cities in Turkey. People were shocked. Then officials reacted without thinking through the consequences. They panicked." However, some residents were willing to "set aside" Topor's right to privacy to help stop the spread of HIV in the community, and some people called for a second TV broadcast showing Topor, according to the Tribune. "The human rights of one person sometimes end where another's begin," Sadullah Kara, chair of Erzurum's bar association, said. Erzurum Police Chief Tahsin Demir said, "I am unhappy with the criticism (we have) received," adding, "I feel so sad about this case. Despite the authority the law has given the police in this situation, I would prefer not to do it again." The regional governor's office endorsed the police department's decision to show Topor on television, basing its decision on a 1996 Interior Ministry resolution requiring foreign sex workers who test positive for STDs to be "exposed to the public by the press," according to the Tribune. "We did this for the public good, although some have taken a different stance," Mustafa Malay, the regional governor, said, adding, "If there were a better way of handling this difficult situation, I would like to know." According to the Interior Ministry, the 1996 resolution that required exposing foreign sex workers was canceled in 1999, and Turkey now requires protection for medical patients' privacy (Collins, Chicago Tribune, 1/14).