Friday, November 12, 2004

HIV Defendant Guilty

This week, a black Washington state man was convicted of deliberating exposing 17 women to HIV. Anthony E. Whitfield was found guilty of 17 counts of first degree assault. Five of the women tested positive, and one has developed HIV. He will be sentenced on December 21, and faces a minimum sentence of 130 years.

Health authorities say as many as 170 people are at risk for infection through sex with him or one of his partners.
Defense attorneys say Whitfield sero-converted 12 years ago, when he was sexually assaulted in an Oklahoma prison. He also has children with three of the women. But so far, none show signs of infection.

The 130 to 190 year sentence is harsh, but, draconian measures such as this will not stop the spread of HIV. And as sorry as I am for the women, all of the sex was consensual ... and by engaging in unprotected sex, they were aware of the risks.

The severe sentence is also part of another, disturbing pattern. You'll recall, two years ago, another poz young brotha was convicted of mandatory transmission. 18 year old Nikko Briteramos was the first person convicted in South Dakota of endangering another with HIV. The college basketball player received a four year sentence for having sex with his girlfriend, after learning he was positive. South Dakota is one of 24 states that criminalize exposure or transmission of HIV.

Harsh sentences, and even harsher medicine because the laws are not uniformly enforced, or applied. I wonder if the Washington and South Dakota prosecutors would be so outraged if the suspects were white women, or gay white men.