RALEIGH — A gay, 23-year-old man received a suspended 45-day jail sentence, 30 months of probation and a $300 fine, plus court costs, after pleading guilty Aug. 22 to charges stemming from violations of North Carolina’s public health laws relating to the spread of HIV.
Joshua Waldon Weaver, a DJ at clubs in Raleigh and Wilmington, was accused of failing to use a condom and failure to notify sexual partners of his HIV-positive status. According to filing documents, the offenses occurred from Aug. 1, 2006 to the time of the charges. The victim in the case was not named and the defendant’s boyfriend at the time of the proceeding made no statement to the press.
Joshua Waldon Weaver, 23, pleaded guilty Aug. 22 after being accused of failing to use a condom and failure to notify sexual partners of his HIV-positive status.
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In April, Weaver was arrested and charged with the crimes, which are regulated under North Carolina Administrative Code 10-41 and North Carolina General Statute 130A-144(f). The laws address control measures regarding the spread of HIV and require those with communicable diseases — including other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and tuberculosis — to comply with measures intended to curb their proliferation.
In an Aug. 15 pre-trial hearing, Weaver’s attorney unsuccessfully argued to close the court during the proceedings. She cited federal medical privacy laws and possible consequences from the North Carolina State Bar Association.
“The Americans With Disabilities Act, HIPAA — I’m concerned about State Bar consequences. I am highly alarmed,” attorney Evonne Hopkins asserted, according to Raleigh TV station WRAL. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that guards patients’ privacy.
Hopkins declined comment when contacted by Q-Notes. Contact information for Weaver could not be found.
When someone in North Carolina is diagnosed with HIV, he or she is required to provide the local health department with the names of those with whom they have had sexual contact. They are also given an agreement to sign that says they will practice safe sex and inform any future sexual partners of their HIV-positive status.
While it is seems that most citizens see the benefit of regulating the spread of HIV, some feel that the laws demonize people with HIV/AIDS — especially in cases like Weaver’s where an HIV-positive person is criminally charged.
Wake County Public Health Director Gibby Harris said county and state agencies prefer to use means other than criminal charges to ensure patients are complying with HIV control measures. Filing charges is the last resort, she said.
Jacquelyn Clymore, the executive director of the Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina in Raleigh, agreed. She said the regulations and criminal enforcement are needed and used sparingly.
“I think [the laws] are necessary but I hope that we are only going to have to apply them in extreme and rare circumstances,” Clymore told Q-Notes. “For the most part that’s been true. Any of us who are sexually active have to tell our partners what is going on — that’s a moral obligation.”
Clymore said she’s observed the state’s approach to how and when they enforce public health regulations by pursuing criminal charges. “The state has worked pretty hard to make sure people know the laws and regulations and what their obligations are [before filing criminal charges],” she said.
So, what happens when an HIV-positive individual does inform his or her sexual partner of their status but that fact is later in dispute? Clymore said she’s heard concerns from people in this situation.
“How do you prove that?” she asked. “How do you prove what you said in the bedroom was actually said. Obviously there are problems with that. In a perfect world, laws wouldn’t be necessary to enforce these things, but unfortunately, that’s [not] what we have.”
According to Raleigh’s News & Observer only 16 people in 2007 were convicted of violating the communicable disease law. Rather than HIV, many of the instances were related to diseases such as tuberculosis or hepatitis.