US: Louisiana sex worker ‘railroaded’ with “attempted intentional exposure” charge following prostitution arrest

A 39-year-old male sex worker has been charged under Louisiana’s HIV exposure law for not disclosing his HIV status to an undercover cop prior to his arrest for prostitution.

The details of the case, from the, read like something out of a Kafka short story. The charge is “attempted intentional exposure”. He is being charged with not telling a prospective client that he was HIV-positive whilst propositioning him. That assumes that the sex worker would not have disclosed later, or – far more importantly – used a condom.

Rather more worryingly, “attempted intentional exposure” does not appear to be a crime.

The story not only includes the sex worker’s full name, but also his address. It works as a ‘fishing expedition’ for potential complainants.

Deputies are also unsure whether he spread the disease to others before his arrest. “He’s known for quite sometime he was a carrier,” Stewart said. “If someone comes forward, we will investigate it further.”

If someone does come forward, he will be charged with “intentional exposure to AIDS”, which, in Louisiana, means not disclosing one’s HIV status before having any kind of contact with someone – and that includes biting or spitting. The actual wording is “…through sexual contact or through any means or contact”. A 1993 appeal found that the statute was neither too vague nor too broad and it has not been challenged since. The law, then, is an open invitation to discriminate against anyone with HIV in the state. And so, if you happen to be an HIV-positive sex worker who doesn’t advertise your HIV status whilst touting for business and you are unlucky enough to be touting that business to an undercover cop who was planning to arrest you anyway, you are an easy target.

The arrest took place in small city of Houma, Louisiana. The sex worker, already targeted as one of the 13 other individuals for a city-wide prostitution and drug bust, had allegedly propositioned the undercover cop before his arrest.

After initiating a conversation with the male deputy, [the accused] allegedly began discussing price and method of payment for sex, Stewart said. He did not mention having HIV, [Major Darryl Stewart of the Narcotics Task Force] said. “He did not make any comments at the time of our operation,” Stewart said. “If it hadn’t been an undercover (deputy) involved in that operation, it could have been someone else.”

[The accused] was one of 13 arrested during the operation, which targeted west-Houma neighborhoods, Stewart said. Deputies checked whether those arrested had HIV or AIDS, as is common after such a bust, Stewart said. “We want to make sure with people out there involved in drug use and prostitution,” Stewart said. “We believe people need to be aware of the different possibilities that can happen.”

The sex worker – and the police – had discovered his HIV-positive status following a prior prostitution arrest. The report says it is unclear whether the HIV test had been voluntary.

[The accused] learned he had HIV during a health screening after a prior arrest, Stewart said. Inmates record their medical history when admitted to the parish jail, but an HIV test is not routinely performed, said Maj. LeeRoy Lirette, the warden. A test can be given at the inmate’s expense if he requests it. Lirette said he is unsure whether Duplantis requested an HIV test during a prior incarceration.

The man is currently serving six months in prison for the prostitution offence. He would face up to ten years hard labour if found guilty of “intentional exposure to AIDS” – it’s unclear what the sentence might be for “attempted intentional exposure.”