Case Involving HIV-Positive Man, Saliva Illustrates ‘Long Way To Go’ in Efforts To Reduce Stigma, Letter to Editor Says
"In the AIDS field, we often talk about how things were 20 years ago when widespread fear prevailed and knowledge of the virus was minimal," John Samuels -- administrative director of AIDS services at Beth Israel Medical Center -- writes in a New York Times letter to the editor written in response to a recent case involving an HIV-positive man who received a 35-year jail sentence for spitting into the mouth and eye of a Dallas police officer. According to Samuels, the case illustrates that "[w]e now know the science behind how the virus is transmitted, but clearly have a long way to go."
Samuels writes that after "searching for more information about this story," he "came across bloggers writing about the sentence," many of whom "not only agreed with the sentence but also wished a harsher punishment than 35 years in prison." Samuels adds that there also was "widespread disgust that government would now have to pay for" the man's HIV/AIDS treatment. He writes, "Even though we know that there is no scientific evidence of saliva as dangerous, this act was considered assault with a deadly weapon" (Samuels, New York Times, 5/27).