Amarillo, Texas, Officials Plan To Drop Lawsuit Against HIV-Positive Woman if She Voluntarily Seeks Treatment
Amarillo, Texas, officials plan to drop their lawsuit against an HIV-positive woman if she voluntarily undergoes treatment and counseling, Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris said on Monday, the Amarillo Globe-News reports. The suit, filed last week, seeks to compel the woman to undergo treatment and stop having unprotected sex. "She seems to maybe want some help now," Norris said, adding, "I understand she has been somewhat cooperative since the suit was filed. I think she sees this as an opportunity for her to make some positive changes in her life" (Cunningham, Amarillo Globe-News, 9/28). The city attorney's office last week in Potter County filed the civil action, which claims that the woman -- identified as T.T. -- has refused multiple efforts from local public health officials to compel her to seek treatment. According to court documents, T.T. was diagnosed as HIV-positive in January 2000 and received counseling from the health department on how to prevent the spread of HIV. However, a 2001 HIV case was traced to T.T., and the patient told health officials that T.T. had not disclosed her status before sexual contact. Health officials also issued a warning letter in early 2003 ordering T.T. to enroll in treatment after learning that she was engaging in commercial sex work to support her illicit drug use. After attending counseling for several months, T.T. dropped out and again began engaging in commercial sex work and using illicit drugs. T.T. had been uncooperative since meeting with public health officials on June 15 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/28).
Amarillo officials "acted correctly" in filing the lawsuit against T.T. because "the city has an absolute right to do all it can to stop the spread of a worldwide public health menace," a Globe-News editorial says. T.T. and "others in a similar circumstance need to be stopped" because they potentially could pass HIV to others, including children from their HIV-positive mothers, the editorial says. Although "[w]e can expect fully to have this case contested on civil liberties grounds," the suit is an "absolute slam dunk" for the city, the editorial concludes (Amarillo Globe-News, 9/28).