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Man gets 30 years for HIV exposure
2015-07-14

This article shared 6250 times since Tue Jul 14, 2015
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In Missouri, former college wrestler Michael Johnson, 23, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for allegedly infecting one sex partner with HIV and risking the infection of four others, according to STLToday.com .

St. Charles County Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham, who issued the sentence, told Johnson, "The main thing is the profound effect your actions have had on the victims and their families."

Johnson was given 30 years on the most serious allegation and a total of 30-and-a-half years on the four lesser charges. The sentences will run concurrently.

HIV activists as well as members of the medical and legal community expressed outrage at the sentence. Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum—a nationally recognized adolescent HIV expert, and founder and director of the Health and Education Alternatives for Teens (HEAT)—said, "HIV criminal laws have no positive impact on the spread of HIV. Sentencing people living with HIV to prison for having sex will, based on decades of HIV clinical experience, only drive people away from health centers where they can learn their HIV status and get the medical care they need."

Local figures also reacted to the ruling. Howard Brown Health Center President/CEO David Ernesto Munar said to Windy City Times, "The sentencing is a devastating blow to justice. My heart goes out to Michael, and all those battling discriminatory and punitive criminalization laws.

"This is a stark reminder that HIV stigma persists and has life-altering consequences. HIV should be treated just like any other medical condition but today we are sadly reminded that it is not; the heavy toll of stigma and discrimination continues to set HIV apart, which is a heavy burden for those of us living with HIV to bear."

Simone Koehlinger, senior vice president of programming at AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) said, "We are saddened and outraged about the severity and unfairness of Mr. Johnson's sentence. The conviction of a person living with HIV for being sexual is nothing but barbaric—it furthers the belief that being HIV positive in and of itself makes one a criminal. This outcome will not prevent new HIV infections and instead reinforces the very stigma that makes people living with HIV feel like they cannot speak openly about their status."

Suraj Madoori, manager of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (PJA) and federal policy manager for AFC, added, "We are very disappointed and saddened to hear the 30-year sentence for Michael L. Johnson. Given that there has been 30-years of advancements in science, new treatments and prevention of HIV—we still cannot overcome the deeply entrenched stigma perpetrated by these laws upon people living with, and vulnerable to, HIV. The HIV PJA continues to be committed to working with our allies on ending these laws and achieving justice for Michael."

In addition, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago Executive Director Tom Yates said, "There is no scientific basis for laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV. In addition, criminalization actually undermines effective HIV prevention efforts by discouraging HIV testing, because ignorance of one's status could be a defense to prosecution. Thus, criminalization laws provide a disincentive to HIV testing and treatment for those who are HIV positive. Such laws also place legal responsibility for HIV prevention exclusively on those who are already living with HIV and dilutes the public health message of shared responsibility for sexual health between sexual partners."

The original article is at www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/ex-college-wrestler-gets-years-in-hiv-case-in-st/article_c3123243-b8d3-58c9-97df-e2c5a504902a.html .

—Andrew Davis

Related news release at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/HIV-doctors-lawyers-community-call-for-reform-of-Missouri-HIV-law-/52137.html .


This article shared 6250 times since Tue Jul 14, 2015
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