A 17 year-old high school student has been arrested under Arkansas's HIV disclosure law for having unprotected sex with a fellow student and not disclosing to her that he was HIV-positive.
According to the Benton County Daily Record, the teenager, who was arrested on April 6th, admitted to the arresting officer that he was HIV-positive, did not disclose this to the girl, and did not wear a condom while having sex with her.
However, he pleaded not guilty during his May 19th arraignment, during which he was charged as an adult, and faces up to 30 years in prison if he is found guilty. His next hearing is on July 6th. It is not clear whether or not he remains in custody.
According to another report, on 4020tv.com (a local TV station's website), the two allegedly had sex in the school toilets.
Police Chief James Allen told us the sexual contact occurred while the two were attending Bentonville High School. Principal Kim Garrett said school employees routinely patrol the halls and bathrooms to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen. Garrett said, “We have cameras on the outside of restrooms so that we can see who is going in and we can track how long a person would be in case we were concerned about a student at that point.”
I have grave concerns about this case. Why is he being tried as an adult, when in Arkansas you are not considered to be adult until 18? How long had the boy known his HIV status and had he been told about the legal issues? Does the school have a duty of care to both of the parties?
In the UK, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National Children's Bureau is lobbying the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to clarify guidelines for charging young people under criminal HIV transmission laws.
"We feel it is inappropriate to consider criminal law as the first port of call for young people in this situation, certainly for a teenager coming to terms with both their sexuality and their virus," says THT's Lisa Power. "Growing up with HIV is terrifying enough for a young person but to be told you could be jailed if you get something wrong makes it even worse. A lot of young people with HIV have quite a problematic relationship with the virus. There are some parents who don't tell their children what they have got - they may simply say they have a blood disorder."
Update: Sept 22
Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green has reduced the boy's bail from $50,000 to $10,000, according to a report on nwaonline.com. He is charged with four counts of felony exposing another person to HIV. If he makes bail, he must be given a home-monitoring device and report regularly to a probation officer. He returns to court on November 9th for a mental status hearing.
Update: Dec 5
The boy has been "arrested again, after police say he knowingly exposed a fifth girl to HIV through sexual contact," according to local TV news station, KSFM. A hearing will be held on December 21 to determine whether the boy, now 18, should be tried as a juvenile or an adult.