Friday, May 15, 2015

23-Year-Old Black Gay HIV+ Man Faces 60 Years In Prison After Being Found Guilty In Missouri

Michael Johnson is a 23-year-old Black gay man who was known on social media as "Tiger Mandingo" and was a champion college wrestler who allegedly had sex with multiple partners in Missouri without disclosing his HIV-positive status (which he knew about). Atleast one of those partners later tested positive for HIV and Johnson was found guilty of under Missouri's HIV criminalization statue this week of "recklessly infecting" a partner with HIV as well as "recklessly exposing a partner to HIV" and is subject to a punishment that could extend to life in prison.

The case, despite being a case of "he said, he said" was complicated by the fact that Johnson made as many as 30 videos of himself having unprotected oral and anal sex with partners, which since he was diagnosed by the state of Missouri as being HIV-positive on January 8, 2013 are evidence of illegal activity.

Buzzfeed notes:
Johnson was specifically charged on six counts: transmitting HIV to Lemons and to Charles Pfoutz through anal sex (both Class A felonies); one Class B felony for attempting to expose HIV to Montell Moore through anal sex without transmission; and three additional Class B felonies for exposing Christian Green, Filip Cukovic, and Andrew Tryon to HIV. Johnson was convicted on all counts, except the one involving Pfoutz, which was added by the prosecution just last month.  
All six of Johnson’s accusers testified that Johnson did not disclose his HIV status. Multiple medical professionals testified that they had informed Johnson of his status and advised him it was a felony to fail to disclose.
Johnson for his part testified that he had disclosed his HIV status to all six of his sexual partners before they had sex.
The case has become a cause celebre in Black gay circles, with a public letter to Johnson signed by 89 prominent Black gay men being circulated in response to the trial. Here's an excerpt:
HIV should be treated as a public health issue not as a criminal one. Legally requiring disclosure privileges the lives of White people not living with HIV over Black people who are living with HIV.
These laws feed into stereotypes that assume Black gay men are irresponsible and hypersexual. For you, your accusers saw your Black and masculine body as a site of ultimate sexual pleasure, until they had to deal with you as a whole person. At that moment you became a problem and were disposable to them.
HIV criminalization laws burden people living with HIV to take on the sole responsibility of sexual encounters. Regardless of intention or disclosure, there is a shared responsibility among sexual partners. Opening up about your HIV status is a personal decision that should not be mandated or enforced. Disclosing your HIV-status should be about self-reflection and speaking your truth. Disclosure should not be about protecting people who are not living with HIV from transmission. And disclosure should not be about punishing people living with HIV who do not disclose.
We do not care about whether or not you disclosed, or any intention you may or may not have had. We care about you—your life matters. HIV is not a crime and you should not be in prison.
What do you think?

Hat/tip to Fusion

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