AIDS Advocates Stage Protest Following Death of HIV-Positive Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Biting Prison Guard
AIDS advocates on Thursday chanted and staged a mock funeral at the home of a retired judge to protest the 1990 sentencing of an HIV-positive inmate, who died in prison in November 2003, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. About 75 people from ACT UP/Philadelphia placed a black casket and flowers in the yard of retired Superior Court Judge John Mariano, who in 1990 sentenced inmate Gregory Smith to 25 years in prison for biting Camden County Sheriff's Officer Albert Waddington. According to Waddington's testimony, Smith -- who had been serving a five-year sentence at the Camden County Jail for robbery -- bit Waddington three times on the hand, spat on him and shouted, "Now die, you pig. Die from what I have." Although there is no evidence that HIV can be transmitted through saliva, an appeals court upheld Smith's conviction saying that it was Smith's intent to transmit HIV by biting the guard. Smith, who denied biting the guard, died Nov. 10, 2003, at the Northern State Prison in Newark, N.J. Members of ACT UP/Philadelphia said that Smith had been an "openly homosexual AIDS activist" while serving at the Camden County Jail and that the biting charges stemmed from "AIDS hysteria," according to the Inquirer. Dan Murphy, a spokesperson for ACT UP/Philadelphia, said that the demonstrators on Thursday were also demanding better medical care for HIV-positive inmates in the New Jersey prison system (Gambardello, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.