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Wednesday 22 July 2009

US: Colorado man gets 15 years in first-ever father-to-child transmission case

A 34 year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to child abuse charges for not warning his wife nor her doctors that he might have infected his wife with HIV during her pregnancy, resulting in their son being born HIV-positive.

I first wrote about the case of Shad Skov in January, highlighting the importance of third-trimester HIV testing. Since Mr Skov's wife has stood by her man throughout, it seems likely that the case was reported to police by the mother's and/or baby's doctors. I can't help but wonder whether this was a pre-emptive move to shift blame from the doctors to Mr Skov in case the Skovs decided to sue them for negligence. Perhaps they still could sue.

The sentencing has made several newspapers, including the Boston Herald, but the most detailed report comes from the local paper,

Shad Skov, 34, faced 10 to 20 years in prison under the terms of an agreement with the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office after pleading guilty to felony child abuse. “You had the specific ability to prevent an awful lot of suffering,” District Judge Valerie Robison said before passing the sentence. Skov apologized to the woman and his son; both were looking on in Robison’s courtroom. The boy’s mother asked Robison for a light sentence, saying Skov is a “good husband and father” who calls his son almost daily. “I should have been more vocal and proactive,” Skov told the judge.

There are no HIV exposure or transmission laws in Colorado, and no laws that mandate disclosure before unprotected sex. Hence, Mr Skov was only prosecuted for the harm to his son. Interestingly, police had investigated his previous sexual encounters, and Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle used this to underline how deceptive Mr Skov had been.

“Suffice to say the boy’s prenatal care would have been much different (had doctors known about HIV), and the failure to thrive could have been addressed with medications,” Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle told the judge. While keeping the information from doctors and his son’s mother, prosecutors said Skov misled others. Tuttle said investigators found two women who said they had sex with Skov after he’d met his child’s mother. “None of them knew he was HIV positive either,” he said.

Mr Skov's prison sentence may have been affected by his previous criminal record. Mr Skov was on parole at the time of his arrest in December 2008, which was about to be revoked because he'd recently tested positive for cocaine. He had previously served eleven years for burglary, assault and aggravated robbery and had been released in 2006. It seems likely, then, that Mr Skov was infected with HIV in prison.



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