In June, a New York appeals court overturned the conviction of an HIV-positive man for assaulting a police officer using “a dangerous weapon,” a.k.a. his saliva.
There has never been a documented case of HIV transmission by spit. Yet people with HIV have repeatedly been prosecuted on the grounds that they intended to harm someone by spitting on them. Although the court did not rule on whether saliva can transmit HIV, the decision still sets an important precedent: In New York, body parts and fluids cannot be considered weapons.
Here’s hoping future rulings will address the fact that saliva doesn’t spread HIV. That would debunk a harmful myth that stigmatizes HIV and discourages testing.