US: Jacob Anderson-Minshall from HIV Plus mag reacts to the latest biting case in Marlyand

When will law enforcement get the message? HIV is neither a death sentence nor transmittable through saliva. So why do they keep arresting HIV-positive people for spitting and or biting and, as in the latest case, charging them with attempted murder?

According to the Baltimore, Maryland-based Capital Gazette, 46-year-old Jeffery David Crook, has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly biting an Anne Arundall County police officer during a tussle.

Crook is being held on half a million dollar bond and has reportedly been charged with multiple counts related to an alleged burglary and the assault on the officer. Crook was reported to the cops after “banging” on the outside of the home of Crook’s ex-boyfriend. Refused entry into the home, Crook allegedy “forced his way” into the house through a sliding glass door and was punched in the face by another man who was in the house.

Officers reported that they located Crook “rambling and incoherent” in an upstairs bedroom and he refused to obey their commands. When they attempted to forcedly arrest him, he resisted so a scuffle ensued. Police say that Crook was then Tasered, which, they allege, had no effect on him, and Crook bit an officer’s arm.

Police stated that the bite broke the officer’s skin, but it was Crook who was immediately transported to a local hospital center for “minor injuries,” the Gazette reported, citing local court records. “While there, he indicated that he was HIV-positive and bit the officer knowing the risk of transmitting the infection.”

Police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said he couldn’t recall another incident where an officer was exposed to a “highly infectious disease,” especially “where it was done intentionally.”

Crook was charged with attempted second-degree murder, home invasion, second-degree assault, third-degree burglary, and reckless endangerment, according to court records.

From a public and mental health perspective, there are so many things wrong with this story, it’s hard to know where to begin. Crook’s mumbling, incoherent demeaner should have been a sign he may have been suffering from mental health issues. After entering his former partner’s house (through an unlocked sliding glass door, mind you), he was assaulted and his lip was cut. But instead of calling mental health professionals, officers tried to cuff him. When he struggled, they tased him. Although they reported that Tasing “had no effect,” he was taken to a hospital. Since few suspects are taken to a medical center for “minor injuries” before being interogated, it seems likely they realized he could not give clear answers because of his condition.

More to the point, once at the hospital, Crook disclosed his HIV status. His indication that he bit the police officer “knowing the risk of transmitting the infection,” could have been him simply acknowledging he was aware of his HIV status before he bit the man, or even that he knew there was little or no risk of transmitting HIV through saliva.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clear “HIV isn’t spread through saliva.” 

According to the CDC, biting, spitting, and throwing body fluids all carry “negligible” risk of infection. It is particularly disheartening for activists fighting the criminalization of HIV when poz individuals are convicted of felony crimes for having spat at, bit, or thrown fluids at an officer when it is nearly impossible to transmit HIV that way.

In this specific case, no doubt the argument is that Crook was bleeding from the mouth when he bit the officer hard enough to break skin. But breaking skin and having a small amount of each person’s blood comingling is still highly unlikely to transmit HIV.

Even if a person with HIV gets hurt playing tackle football or boxing at the gym, it’s “highly unlikely that HIV transmission could occur in this manner,” according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The external contact with blood that might occur in a sports injury is very different from direct entry of blood into the bloodstream, which occurs from sharing needles or works.”

Even if the officer in question did defy all odds and turn up HIV-positive, there’s no way to be sure it was transmitted in this occassion. Moreover, there’s still a significant problem with the charge of attempted murder. Like many laws that criminalize behavior like sex work or add sentencing penalties only for those who are HIV-positive, charging someone with attempted murder instead of assault is based entirely on the outdated equation that HIV equals death. It’s based on an outdated view of the HIV-positive body not as a human being but as a “deadly weapon.”

These offensive tropes are decades out of date, have been out-and-out discredited by modern science, and rendered obsolete by the development of highly active antiretroviral medications that have transformed HIV from a terminal disease to a manageable chronic condition.

And yet, when confronted with even the tiniest of bodily fluid of HIV-positive individuals, police officers continue to overreact with fear (the officer in the Crook case “remained out of work” days after the incident) and arrest people for actions that cannot transmit HIV, simply because they discover their alleged perp also has HIV.

Around the country, district attorneys in these cases continue to charge HIV-positive individuals with crimes for things that are not criminal, continue bumping up simple charges from misdemeanors to felonies just because the individuals involved are poz, and continue to claim that exposure to HIV is a death sentence when it isn’t. Judges continue to accept these arguments, and continue handing down these overblown sentences, often without the abiility for parole.

Most of the law and order representatives who embrace HIV criminalization do so out of ignorance, but some are aware of the facts and proceed anyway because the law was written in such a way that facts, medical findings, and scientific proof simply have no bearing on the case.

Many of those who are serving extended prison terms have not even transmitted HIV to another person (think Michael Johnson in Missouri and Kerry Thomas in Idaho, both serving 30 year sentences). Yet they often face sentences higher for spitting or having sex without disclosure than if they had actually murdered the person they are accused of “infecting.”

How flawed is this system? And what kind of lesson does this teach people about those living with HIV? For one thing, it teaches that knowing one’s status is a legal liability. In Crook’s case — as in most other cases — the determining factor of guilt is often based on whether the individual knew they were HIV-positive at the time. Spit on a police office without knowing you’re poz, it’s a misdemeanor assault. Spit on an officer once you know have HIV? It’s attempted murder. Neither one can actually transmit HIV.

To us, it’s just insane.

Mexico: 150 police officers undergo training in HIV, AIDS and STIs in Oaxaca

English Version (Scroll down for Spanish text)

COESIDA Trained Municipal Police in HIV, AIDS and STIs

To contribute to the full training of Public Safety officers, from 4 to 8 July, staff of the State Council for the Prevention and Control of AIDS (COESIDA) trained around 150 members of the Municipal Police Force in Oaxaca de Juarez, in HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Ofelia Martinez Lavariega, head of the Training Department of COESIDA said that, for the third consecutive year, the workshops were conducted through the Police Academy, in coordination with the Commission for Public Safety, and Traffic and Municipal Civil Protection.

“The goal is to continue the work of awareness, prevention and detection of HIV we have carried on since 2013,” she said, while noting that only last year 120 officers were trained. This year the number of participants grew to 150, reflecting the interest in being trained in issues related to HIV and AIDS, such as masculinity and sensitive language, issues which closed the workshops this year . “This last issue is very important if we consider the characteristics of their work, and the fact that police officers have to deal with key groups – sex workers, trans* people – and that sometimes they do not know how to treat them, and without meaning to, come to violate their human rights, “said Martin Trápaga Sibaja, COESIDA trainer and psychologist.

In 2015, the Commissioner of Public Safety, Traffic and Municipal Civil Protection, José Luis Echeverria Morales, stressed the importance of carrying on with such activities which undoubtedly contribute to the integral training of security forces in the capital’s City Hall. “Today we witness greater interest from public safety officers in the workshops. Initially, the majority had no knowledge about the basic information about HIV, AIDS, about modes of transmission and even about the correct way to put a condom; but now, each time there are more who join the program and also to convey the messages to their peers, take them home and that’s very important, “he said.

In addition to the participation of psychologist Martin Trápaga Sibaja, the police officers were trained by Doctor Angeles Pérez Silva and Psychologist Angelica Castro Pineda, who invited them to exercise their sexuality responsibly and with a shared responsibility.

Capacita COESIDA a policías municipales en materia de VIH, Sida e ITS

A fin de contribuir a la formación integral de las y los elementos de Seguridad Pública, del 4 al 8 de julio, personal del Consejo Estatal para la Prevención y Control del sida (COESIDA) capacitó a alrededor de 150 elementos de la Policía Vial y Municipal de Oaxaca de Juárez, en materia de VIH, sida y otras infecciones de transmisión sexual.   Ofelia Martínez Lavariega, jefa del Departamento de Capacitación del COESIDA, indicó que por tercer año consecutivo los talleres se realizan de manera coordinada con la Comisión de Seguridad Pública, Vialidad y Protección Civil Municipal, a través de la Academia de Policía.

“El objetivo es continuar con el trabajo de sensibilización, prevención y detección del VIH que hemos hecho desde 2013”, señaló, al tiempo de destacar que tan solo el año pasado fueron capacitados 120 elementos.   Para este año –dijo- el número de participantes creció a 150, lo que refleja el interés por estar informados sobre temas relacionados con el VIH y sida, tales como la masculinidad y lenguaje sensible, con los que se clausuraron los talleres de este año 2016.

“Este último tema es muy importante si consideramos que por las características de su trabajo, las y los policías tienen que lidiar con grupos clave -trabajadoras y trabajadores sexuales o personas trans- a quienes en ocasiones no saben cómo tratar, y sin pretenderlo, llegan a violentar sus derechos humanos”, sostuvo Martín Trápaga Sibaja, psicólogo capacitador del COESIDA.

En el año 2015, el Comisionado de Seguridad Pública, Vialidad y Protección Civil Municipal, José Luis Echeverría Morales, resaltó la importancia de dar seguimiento a este tipo de actividades que sin duda, contribuyen a la formación integral de los elementos de seguridad del Ayuntamiento capitalino.

“Hoy vemos un mayor interés de los elementos de seguridad pública en los talleres. Al principio, la mayoría desconocía la información básica sobre el VIH, el sida, las formas de transmisión e incluso, la forma correcta de colocar un condón; pero ahora, cada vez son más los que se suman al programa y además de transmitir el mensaje entre sus compañeros, lo llevan a sus hogares y eso es muy importante”, aseguró.   Además de la participación del psicólogo Martín Trápaga Sibaja, las y los policías fueron capacitados por la médica Ángeles Pérez Silva y la psicóloga Angélica Castro Pineda, quienes los invitaron a ejercer su sexualidad de manera responsable y compartida.

Liga tomada del portal

Australia: Southern Australia new legislation to soon enforce mandatory blood testing of offenders for spitting at, or biting police officers

MORE than 100 police officers are being spat at each year, exposing them to infectious diseases and raising the concerns of their union.

Police figures show 111 officers were spat at in 2013 and that total has remained steady each year since, although they refused to release new figures.

South Australian Police Association president Mark Carroll said he hoped new legislation, which is expected to soon become law, enforcing mandatory blood testing of offenders who assault police would protect his members.

“When, in the course of duty, officers are spat on, bitten or otherwise assaulted in a way involving an exchange of bodily fluids, it’s essential that these officers have access to blood samples from the assailant that can be tested,” he said.

The comments come after the sentencing of Brandon William Peter Humes who spat on an officer during an arrest him and told him ‘I don’t give a f — k … I have HIV AIDS and now you’ve got it too’.

In sentencing Humes, 27, this month District Court Judge Rauf Soulio said the officer had to restrain Humes which left him unable to immediately “decontaminate himself”.

“Your comments about HIV caused him great distress,” Judge Soulio said.

 “He felt unable to hold his infant daughter, who was born prematurely, for fear of passing on a communicable disease.

“He had to deal with the fear of waiting for blood results, which were, fortunately, negative.”

Humes was sentenced to four years and six months jail with a non-parole period of two years for armed robbery and the spitting offence in June last year.

Also, Senior Sergeant Alison Coad contracted oral herpes after being spat on by a criminal.

SAPOL would not comment on the medical history of officers but said “this type of incident (spitting) is always of concern.”

“This type of behaviour is totally inappropriate and can result in offenders facing very serious charges,” a spokeswoman said.

The WA Police Union has recently requested officers be equipped with spit hoods because of a spike in incidents there.

Orginally published in The Advertiser

Czech Republic: Prague Public Health Authority initiates criminal prosecutions of 30 gay men living with HIV following an STI diagnosis

Late last month, Prague’s Public Health Authority initiated criminal investigations against 30 gay men living with HIV that had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) during the previous year.

The Public Health Authority appear to believe that since these men acquired an STI this is proof that they must have practiced condomless sex and have therefore violated Sections 152 and 153 of the Czech Criminal Code, which a 2005 Supreme Court ruling confirmed could be used to prosecute any act of condomless sex (including oral sex) by a person living with HIV as “spread of infectious diseases”.

There are no individual complainants in these cases.

The Czech AIDS Society responded to the publication of initial media reports on January 26th, with a press release that highlighted:

  • They have already begun to provide legal counseling to several of these men.
  • Most of them have an undetectable viral load and/or only have sex only with other men living with HIV (known as ‘serosorting’).
  • Being diagnosed with an STI does not, in and of itself, prove that condomless sex took place because most STIs can be acquired even when condoms are used.
  • Fear of punishment will lead to people living with HIV and at risk of a sexually transmitted infection not getting tested or treated.

“Czech AIDS Society has long struggled against the criminalisation of the private life of people living with HIV in cases where there is no HIV transmission. We believe that the HIV epidemic must be fought not through repression, but through the treatment which, in most cases, reduces the viral load of HIV-positive patients to undetectable levels thus eliminating the risk of transmission.”

They went on to make a number of media appearances pointing out that applying criminal law to potential HIV exposure does not reduce the spread of HIV, undermines HIV prevention efforts, promotes fear and stigma, punishes behaviour that is not blameworthy and ignores the real challenges of HIV prevention in the Czech Republic.

They also published a second press release, entitled “Professional failure of public health officials” on February 10th that was strongly critical of the actions of Prague’s Public Health Authority, noting that they have greatly undermined trust in the confidentiality of the public health system which will likely lead to an increase in new HIV infections.

On February 12th, the head of Prague’s Public Health Authority, Ms. Zdenka Jagrova (pictured above), issued a statement in response, suggesting that the Authority is legally obliged to initiate such criminal complaints and that “it would be a professional failure if [we] did not do so…

[We] did not check sexual orientation of HIV-positive people who got infected with another contagious, sexually transmitted disease. It is not an attack on the gay community, but in 2014 no HIV-positive woman in Prague was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. A public health authority is obliged to protect the public health of the population and must act in the same manner as in case of other infectious diseases, for instance TB….This campaign aiming at questioning our practices is clearly intended to assert alleged rights of a minority at the expense of the rights of the majority, i.e. in particular the right to health, irrespective of who and how threatens the health. We consider attempts to create a privileged group that would be excluded from generally defined responsibilities very dangerous.”

A number of organisations representing communities of people living with and affected by HIV are now working together with UNAIDS to support the Czech AIDS Society, including the circulation of a petition.

It appears that none of the cases have yet been passed to the Public Prosecution office for formal prosecution.  However, the investigation has set a dangerous precedent and we understand that public health departments in other regions of the Czech Republic are now considering following the Prague example.

Canada: Academic article explores problematic police and media practices relating to allegations of HIV non-disclosure, proposes solutions

Kyle Kirkup explores Canadian police and media practices that stigmatize people living with HIV (PLWH) and facilitate the public’s belief that HIV and PLWH are dangerous. In support, Kirkup analyzes the 2010 case of an Ottawa man living with HIV arrested for sexual assault, which involved the public release of the man’s identity, photo, sexual health, and sexual encounters in an article headlined “Have you had sex with this man?”

The ensuing discourse of gay male sexuality using tropes from the HIV epidemic in the 80s illustrates, Kirkup argues, how a lack of police and media regulation and education continue to produce a punitive and isolating environment for PLWH.

Kirkup proposes several strategies for reform, including expanding publication bans and non-disclosure legislation, changing police ethics to keep private information out of the hands of journalists, educating journalists and public officials about the medial realities of HIV transmission risk and medical prognosis, and abandoning the “aggravated sexual assault” charge based on HIV status.

US : Mississippi lawmakers pass law mandating HIV testing for anyone arrested for sexual assault

Updated by Paul Boger at Law enforcement officers will soon be able to do mandatory AIDS testing on those arrested for sexual assault. House Bill 2-57 was passed by lawmakers with nearly unanimous support in Mississippi’s House and Senate. The measure gives law enforcement the right to test individuals arrested for sexually assaulting a minor for diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

Under current Mississippi law, testing can only be conducted after a person has been convicted of a crime. Proponents say the new law will help young victims know if they’ve been exposed to a terrible disease. Republican Representative Mark Formby of Picayune helped draft the law. He says the test would become part of the intake process.

“If you’re arrested and you get photographed; it is not any additional evasive behavior,” says Formby. “We are documenting that you were arrested, which means that there was some degree of evidence that implicated you in a crime.”

Despite the measure’s popularity among lawmakers, some groups like the ACLU of Mississippi believe the law is a slippery slope.

Keia Johnson is the organization’s legislative strategist. She says the law amounts to an unreasonable search and seizure.

“We believe that when you mandate that DNA is to be collected for HIV testing purposes or anything like that upon arrest, that you are violating the due process of law,” Johnson says.

According to Representative Formby, both the suspect and the victim will be given the results of the test 24 hours after it was taken. At that time, all other DNA samples would be destroyed.

Australia: Western Australia implements unscientific new law mandating HIV and hepatitis testing for spitting at, or biting, cops

Spitters and biters beware.  From January 1 anyone caught biting or spitting at a police officer in Western Australia will be ordered to undergo blood tests for infectious diseases.

The new law, coming in at midnight on the busiest night of the year, has been introduced to streamline the testing process for officers who are injured by a potentially infected offender.

WA Police Minister Liza Harvey said officers’ concerns would be eased by immediately testing the blood of an attacker for infectious diseases.

“Previously a police officer has had an agonising three to six-month wait before they get results from their own blood testing to confirm if they have contracted a disease,” she said.

“So for those people who do decide to get on the wrong side of police and decide to bite them or spit at them we will be compelling those offenders to provide a blood sample.

“They [police] will have an idea of whether they’ll have contracted HIV or hep C or hep B and we can give the police officers peace of mind early in the piece as to whether they’ve been exposed to those diseases. ”

Ms Harvey said 147 police in 2013 were exposed to bodily fluids in a way that they could contract an infectious disease.

“This legislation will allow for the taking of blood samples from the offender which helps in diagnosis, clinical management and treatment of the exposed police officer,” she said.

She said the testing would only take place if transfer of an infectious disease, such as bodily fluid through broken skin, was possible.

“We are deeply committed to protecting our officers on the frontline, who are committed to protecting us,” Mrs Harvey said.

Under the new law, approval for the blood test must come from an inspector or higher rank and a court order is needed if the offender is a child or is impaired.

Test will check for HIV, hepatitis B and C.

Canada: Judge rules that police violated constitutional rights by disclosing man's HIV status in press release

An Oshawa judge’s decision to sentence a man to house arrest for Internet child luring rather than jail because police publicly revealed his HIV status is the latest example of judges finding creative ways to manoeuvre around mandatory minimum sentences.

Former youth pastor Kris Gowdy was given two years less one day house arrest and three years’ probation last week by Ontario Court Justice Michael Block rather than the mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail. Justice Block found Durham Regional Police violated Mr. Gowdy’s constitutional rights when they indicated in a news release shortly after his arrest in August 2012 that he was HIV-positive.

The story of the “HIV-positive ex-youth pastor” made headlines around the world, causing significant emotional trauma to Mr. Gowdy, Justice Block wrote in his decision.

“Mr. Gowdy had a right to make his own choices concerning the disclosure of his HIV status,” he wrote. “No doubt he would have chosen his own method and different timing if he ever determined to inform those near to him. Absent evidence of serious risk of transmission and rigorous compliance with statute, no one had the authority to make that decision for him.”

US: Lambda Legal calls for halt to HIV-based criminal prosecutions in wake of Department of Justice guidance

[Press release from Lambda Legal]

“We call upon those charged with enforcing such laws—from governors to prosecutors to police detectives—to halt the criminal prosecution and resulting persecution of any individual based on HIV status.”

(Washington, D.C. Thursday, July 17, 2014) – Lambda Legal today called for a moratorium on all HIV-based criminal prosecutions until state legislatures take action to implement the reforms recommended in the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance advising states to eliminate such prosecutions absent clear evidence of an intent to harm and a significant risk of actual transmission.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to decriminalize HIV. When the country’s leading law enforcement agency — working hand-in-hand with the country’s leading public health authority — reaches the conclusion that particular laws and criminal prosecutions are working at cross-purposes to our national strategy for ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is time for those with the power to end these prosecutions to take immediate action,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal. “We call upon those charged with enforcing such laws—from governors to prosecutors to police detectives—to halt the criminal prosecution and resulting persecution of any individual based on HIV status.”

Earlier this year, the DOJ co-authored an article with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzing the current landscape with respect to HIV criminalization laws in the United States. As a follow-up, the DOJ this week published guidance (“Best Practices Guide to Reform HIV-Specific Criminal Laws to Align with Scientifically-Supported Factors” [link]) noting that these laws are not based on a current understanding of HIV or the availability of biomedical techniques for preventing its transmission, were enacted when the prognosis of those with access to care was much different than it is today, and place unique and unnecessary additional burdens on people living with HIV.

Schoettes added, “For years, Lambda Legal has been advocating for the repeal or reform of HIV criminalization laws, assisting defense attorneys from behind the scenes, and—when the opportunity arose and a solid legal argument could be made—fighting in court ourselves against the most egregious application of such laws. Along with a wide range of allies we have refined the arguments against these laws, made our case to audiences both gay and straight, and pressed others to join our cause. The growing drumbeat against these laws and unjust prosecutions finally has reached the ears of those in positions of authority. And this summer, the tide has finally turned in our favor.”

Within the criminal justice system, prosecutors have a significant degree of discretion and represent the most important safeguard against unjust applications of the criminal law. In this circumstance, any government attorney who is currently prosecuting a criminal case that turns upon the HIV status of the defendant is invested with the power to consider whether that prosecution conforms to the best practices set forth by the Department of Justice guidance and to discontinue prosecutions that are not in line it. In situations involving consensual sexual conduct between adults, a prosecution would not move forward under the parameters of this guidance unless there is clear evidence of both the intent to transmit the virus and a significant risk of transmission as a result of that person’s conduct.

“Right now, dozens of individuals in states all across the country face prosecutions that are not justifiable under the parameters set forth in the DOJ guidance,” said Schoettes. “No person who is in a position to halt such a prosecution should stand idly by while these individuals are subjected to such unwarranted persecution. We call upon those who have pledged themselves to pursue justice on behalf of the communities they serve to fulfill that pledge now, to end all prosecutions based on HIV status, and to return these individuals to their families and their lives.”

Last month, in a pivotal appeal litigated by Lambda Legal, the Iowa Supreme Court set aside the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, with required registration as a sex offender, after having a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom. In reversing the conviction, the Court questioned whether HIV-positive individuals who have a reduced viral load as a result of effective treatment can transmit HIV through sexual activity.

The DOJ guidance is available here

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Lambda Legal’s case Rhoades v. Iowa is available here

Australia: South Australia Government plans mandatory HIV testing following blood or saliva exposure to police

ANY offender whose blood or saliva comes into contact with a police officer will be compelled to undergo a mandatory blood test, under new laws to be introduced by the State Government. Premier Jay Weatherill will today outline the measure – and another significant community safety initiative involving police – at the Police Association of SA annual delegates conference.

The move will ensure any officer faced with the risk of contracting a communicable disease is made aware of the possible threat much faster, instead of having to rely on their own test results – often many months later. Mr Weatherill said police needed to be protected. “We know that there are some instances where police officers are exposed to infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C or HIV when an officer is arresting, restraining or detaining an offender,” he said.

“These laws mean that if an officer is exposed to a risk of contracting these diseases, the offender will be required to undertake a blood test. While officers are already blood-tested in these situations, some diseases are not detectable for months. This means officers can be left waiting for a considerable amount of time, which can be stressful for them and their families. Test results from the offender will provide early information to reduce the anxiety about risk of infection.”

Police say that over the past year, there were 279 incidents where officers came into contact with blood, 118 incidents involving officers being spat on and two occasions where an officer suffered a needle-stick injury.