Menace to Society? Prosecutors Using Harsher Laws in HIV Criminalization

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June 21, 2010


"The threat to civil rights can also be seen in the recent case of an HIV-positive person who was charged as a terrorist for allegedly biting another man. Daniel Allen, a 45-year-old Black, HIV-positive gay man, was charged as a bioterrorist for allegedly biting a neighbor's lip during an October 2009 scuffle in suburban Detroit. Allen claims that the neighbor harassed him because he is gay. In addition to two felony assault charges, he was charged with using a 'harmful biological device' after admitting that he was HIV-positive.

"Gay-rights activists, the Michigan ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense Fund argued that the bioterrorism charge was unwarranted and filed amicus briefs to help the court decide the case. '[The charge] also fuels stigma and ignorance surrounding HIV,' says Bebe Anderson, director of Lambda Legal's HIV Project. 'And the sensational media reporting contributes to the misunderstanding,' she adds.

"At a June 2 hearing, a judge ordered the bioterrorism charge dismissed, ruling that HIV-positive status is not enough to accuse someone of unlawfully possessing a biological weapon. 'It was an inappropriate charge, and the dismissal sends a very clear message,' Anderson says."


Related Issues: HIV