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Man charged with criminal transmission of HIV after spitting. It’s scientifically impossible to transmit HIV through spit

Josh Milton July 16, 2020
Julio Rivera, 41, was charged with "criminal transmission of HIV" after spitting on a first responder. (Volusia County Corrections)

Julio Rivera, 41, was charged with "criminal transmission of HIV" after spitting on a first responder. (Volusia County Corrections)

A Florida man who is living with HIV was charged with criminal transmission of HIV after spitting on a first responder, police said.

However, health experts stressed to PinkNews that the virus can not be acquired via saliva and explained how such slippery sentences only provoke the stigma of living with HIV.

Julio Rivera, 41, clashed with law enforcement during an altercation at Daytona Beach on Tuesday. During a brawl, Rivera threatened police and told them he was HIV positive before becoming unresponsive.

Emergency services came to the scene EMS1 reported, to tend to the suspect. But Rivera, roiled with rage, spat what police said was “brownish-red” fluid at paramedics.

He then told the first responder that he is living with HIV, spluttering: “And, yeah, use them universal precautions [expletive].”

Even when a “spit hood” was placed over his face, a police report said, the man writhed and continued to fan saliva mist through the hood.

Man living with HIV spat on paramedic charged with ‘transmitting’ the virus’. Experts say this simply is not scientifically accurate.

According to the police report, cops were called to a domestic disturbance at a South Palmetto Avenue home where Rivera’s girlfriend reported being battered. Rivera fled the scene on a bicycle.

Patrol cops spotted Rivera and called on him to stop – he didn’t, and instead pedalled faster. Rivera rode through a busy intersection at Ridgewood Avenue and Beville Road but was caught.

Officers found a bag of MDMA on him and Rivera gave a false name. He told police he was HIV positive before threatening their families and passing out, leading to the spitting incident.

Rivera was held in the Volusia County Branch Jail on Wednesday without bail.

In a volley of charges handed down by authorities – which included battery on a firefighter by way of spitting, domestic violence battery, resisting arrest without violence, fleeing and attempting to elude police, giving a false name, unlawful possession of molly/ecstasy, possession of drug paraphernalia, and grand theft – “criminal transmission of HIV” is a policy that attracted criticism for healthcare advocates.

British HIV activist Matthew Hodson told PinkNews that “There is no actual risk of HIV transmission by spitting.

“A systematic review of all reported incidents, published in 2018, failed to identify a single case. Being spat on, without consent, in the course of your work must be extremely unpleasant.

“Adding unnecessary anxiety about HIV will only increase stress.”

Hodson, the executive director of NAM aidsmap, explained how the criminalisation of HIV transmission in cases such as this serves more to persecute marginalised populations as well as discouraging testing and treatment.

Overall, he said, these statutes do nothing to decrease the spread of HIV.

“Prosecutions for attempted transmission in circumstances where there is no risk of transmission, such as from spitting or from sex when the positive partner is virally suppressed to undetectable levels, only perpetuates ignorance and needless fear,” Hodson added.

More: AIDS, Aidsmap, Crime, Florida, Health, HIV, Matthew Hodson

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