A Missouri man has been charged with attempting to expose another person to HIV in what is a worrying use of police resources and reach.
According to an AP report, “Police say that on Monday, [Robert] Smith met with an undercover detective and sought to have sex, denying that he was HIV-positive. Police say there are no known victims, but they urge anyone with concerns to come forward.”
Details remain sparse, such as how did police know he had HIV? and what were they doing targeting him in an undercover sting on Craigslist?
More troubling is the fact that the arrest comes hot off the heels of the conviction of Michael Brown, also in Missouri. Brown was found guilty of “recklessly transmitting HIV” and given a hefty 30-year prison sentence.
Writing for the HIV Justice Network, Edwin Bernard notes that Smith “is now charged with attempted (sexual) HIV exposure, which is, in fact, not actually a crime in Missouri. It is only a crime to attempt to donate blood, organs or sperm knowing you are HIV-positive. Otherwise you have to have acted in a reckless manner and engaged in sex without disclosure.”
Knowingly spreading HIV is clearly a serious matter, but both the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have publicly condemned laws criminalizing HIV, citing among other things, a failure to actually reduce infection rates.
Entrapment, however, is very much a crime in Missouri. We’re not sure how Smith’s arrest could be seen as anything but.