May 19, 2008
Lambda Legal Responds to HIV Spitting Conviction
Last week, an HIV-positive man was sentenced to 35 years in prison after spitting in the eye and open mouth of a Dallas police officer, with a jury concluding that the man’s spit be classified as a deadly weapon due to his HIV status, even though no case of HIV transmission through spitting has ever been recorded.
Lambda Legal—a group advocating for the rights of lesbians, gay men and people living with HIV—criticizes the verdict as misinformed, saying it has the potential to spread false information on how the virus is transmitted, the Houston Chronicle reports (chron.com, 5/17).
“It’s been 25 years since the virus was identified, but there are still lots of fears,” said Bebe Anderson, the HIV Projects director at Lambda Legal. “We are still facing people losing their jobs and fighting for their children because of fears that are unfounded.”
According to the article, the Dallas County Health Department issued a statement on May 16—two days after the man was sentenced—saying that HIV is typically spread through unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles or through blood transfusion. In the document, officials write that they consider “the risk of HIV transmission through saliva and tears to be extremely low.”
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