The case of Steve Douglas Podles is relatively straightforward, The Baltimore Sun said Monday, with charges of soliciting a minor and a related sexual offense in a February incident that together could carry a prison term of 30 years, but Baltimore County, Md., prosecutors also accused Podles of the seldom-used charge of transmitting the HIV virus.
Public health advocates call the charge arcane and ineffective, discouraging HIV testing and perpetuating a stigma against people with the disease. At the height of the AIDS scare during the 1980s and 1990s, 33 states, including Maryland, passed laws to criminalize the spread of HIV but in recent years the federal government has modified its AIDS/HIV policy and recommended against HIV criminalization, the newspaper said Monday.
"One has to ask if (prosecuting) has any value to public health. This doesn't make any difference to HIV prevention," said Scott Burris, a Temple University law professor whose research has changed national strategies against the spread of HIV.
Law enforcement officials maintain criminal penalties are necessary, the newspaper said, and even the state attorney admitted a charge is difficult to prove.
"We have to prove (a defendant) knowingly transferred" the virus or attempted to transfer it, Baltimore County, Md., State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said. "Being able to meet these elements, it's a little more challenging."