Canada: Alberta judge, police believe that spitting transmits HIV

An Edmonton, Alberta man who claimed he was HIV-positive and then spat in the eye of a police officer has been sent to prison for five months for assaulting a peace officer, with the policeman’s fear of infection being an aggravating factor in sentencing. The man was later (mandatorily?) tested and found not to be HIV-positive.

According to the Edmonton Sun, Judge Michael Stevens-Guille requires some HIV transmission training like his Ontario counterpart Jon-Jo Douglas.

“Spitting is disgusting,” said Judge Michael Stevens-Guille, pointing out that, years ago, expectorating on someone was not considered to be worse than punching the person in the nose. However, as a result of the dangers of transmitting communicable diseases, it is now considered far more dangerous and there is a need to protect people like the police from such perils, said Stevens-Guille. The judge also noted it was aggravating that the police officer involved was “very frightened’ by the potential he might have contracted the HIV virus and had to go through the worry of waiting for blood test results.

I agree with Judge Stevens-Guille on just one point: spitting is disgusting. However, although being spat upon is unpleasant, and may be a symbolic assault, it is not a way to transmit HIV.

Read this fascinating blog entry from Sally’s Trove on what can be transmitted by spitting, and the history and legacy of US spitting laws.