Several HIV/AIDS advocacy groups are saying that a recent ruling in a Dallas County, Texas, case that an HIV-positive man who spit into the mouth and eye of a Dallas police officer was using saliva as a deadly weapon was excessive, the Dallas Morning News reports.
CDC and "countless doctors say no one has ever contracted the virus from" saliva, the Morning News reports. According to Bebe Anderson, HIV project director for Lambda Legal, the group is criticizing the ruling, saying it could lead to a misunderstanding of how HIV is transmitted (Ellis, Dallas Morning News, 5/17).
Dallas police officer Dan Waller during the case testified that Willie Campbell, who is HIV-positive, spit into his eye and open mouth when he arrested Campbell for public intoxication in 2006, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. In addition, while in prison awaiting trial, Campbell allegedly bit two inmates and attacked other officers. Because Campbell had been in prison twice before, he was classified as a habitual offender subject to a sentence of at least 25 years, according to the AP/Chronicle (AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/17). Campbell on Wednesday received a 35-year prison sentence in the case. Waller has not tested HIV-positive, according to the Morning News.
Dallas County Health and Human Services on Friday in response to the ruling issued a statement that said, "U.S. Public Health Service guidelines determine the risk of HIV transmission from such fluids as saliva and tears to be extremely low." R. Doug Hardy, infectious disease specialist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center Dallas, added that there is a higher risk of transmitting hepatitis B and C, and syphilis through saliva.
Dallas County prosecutor Jenni Morse said that any risk level is sufficient for saliva to be considered a deadly weapon. "No matter how minuscule, there is some risk," Morse said, adding, "That means there is the possibility of causing serious bodily injury or death," the legal definition of a deadly weapon. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins added that "it was clear [Campbell] intended to cause serious bodily injury" to Waller. Anderson said, "It's been 25 years since the virus was identified, but there are still lots of fears." She added, "We are still facing people losing their jobs and fighting for their children because of fears that are unfounded" (Dallas Morning News, 5/17).